The New England White Shark Research Consortium — an Unparalleled Joint Effort to Understand This Crucial Apex Predator
UMass Amherst fisheries biologist Andy Danylchuk, environmental conservation, and his Ph.D. student Bryan Legare recently joined other shark research groups and government agencies from the northeastern United States and Canada in the New England White Shark Research Consortium (NEWSRC). It provides the first-ever collaboration to jointly study the white shark (Carchardon carcharias) throughout its entire northeast range.
With increased white shark sightings from Rhode Island to Canada, NEWSRC says, “this is the perfect time to create a unique consortium to increase our understanding of white shark life history, including their migration, residency, habitat use, reproduction and predatory behavior – factors that drive human-shark interactions, and broader perceptions of white sharks by coastal communities.”
Danylchuk and Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries are co-advisors to Legare in his doctoral work. The three will collaborate with the Provincetown-based Center for Coastal Studies to study the near-shore movements of white sharks off Cape Cod. Specifically, they are using fine-scale acoustic telemetry to determine what environmental conditions bring white sharks close to beaches where human-shark encounters can occur.
"With the increased sightings in New England waters, the partners of the newly formed NEWSRC will work together to understand the movement patterns of white sharks and how coastal communities can live in harmony with these important apex predators," says Danylchuk.
Danylchuk says, “White sharks, and sharks in general, are pretty cool but they scare the heck out of people. Sure, they have lots of teeth and strong jaws, but the probability of getting attacked by a white shark is so much less than getting into a car accident or falling down a flight of stairs. With the increased sightings in New England waters, the partners of the newly formed NEWSRC will work together to understand the movement patterns of white sharks and how coastal communities can live in harmony with these important apex predators.”
He adds, “The NEWSRC will provide the foundation for an evidence-based approach for management and education campaigns related to increasing human safety while also embracing the ecological value white sharks have to marine food webs.”
Danylchuk, Skomal and Legare will join an effort of what NEWSRC calls “unparalleled in scope and methodology, maintaining hundreds of acoustic receivers throughout the northeast to detect white shark movements from Rhode Island to Canada. It will conduct research on multiple life stages using a variety of tagging technologies, such as acoustic transmitters, data loggers, and satellite-linked tags, as well as conventional tagging and tissue analysis.”
Further, “Using the collective knowledge and resources of the group, the consortium will not only advance the current knowledge of the species, but also enhance public education and safety within this region. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the white shark is on the IUCN’s Red List and the population is considered Vulnerable, which makes this research that much more important,” organizers point out.
In addition to UMass Amherst and the Commonwealth’s Division of Marine Fisheries, members of the consortium include scientists and researchers from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, the Center for Coastal Studies, the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources,UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology, the New England Aquarium, Arizona State University, the Atlantic Shark Institute, the NOAA Fisheries Apex Predators Programand Fisheries and Oceans Canada.