ELLSWORTH — In late July, Maine experienced its first recorded fatal shark attack when a great white shark attacked a woman swimming close to shore in a cove on Bailey Island in Casco Bay.
Late last month, the Department of Marine Resources announced that it would be joining the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries in a research effort to provide information about the presence of great white sharks in Maine’s inshore waters.
DMR science bureau staff will place 20 passive acoustic receivers in near-shore Maine waters to capture data from tags placed on great white sharks in research conducted by the Massachusetts DMF since 2010. Approximately 210 great white sharks have been tagged so far in the ongoing research work.
“We have a long history of partnering in both management and science with Massachusetts DMF,” Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the DMR, said in a statement announcing the cooperative venture. “Massachusetts certainly has had their share of experience with white sharks. With a study already in progress, we can immediately engage with them to help expand and improve the understanding of this species.”
The two-state effort will be supported by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC), a nonprofit organization that works to advance white shark research, education and public safety. AWSC will fund the purchase of 12 receivers that will be added to others supplied by DMF and DMR.
Current data shows that approximately 20 percent of the white sharks tagged in DMF’s ongoing study migrate into the Gulf of Maine.
“This effort will provide a much better understanding of when they are in our waters, what their habitat use is, and how those change over time,” Keliher said. “This work is important from a public safety standpoint and it will provide valuable biological information.”
DMR will work with the DMF to identify locations for the receivers and DMR’s Bureau of Marine Science and the Marine Patrol will deploy them.
“This winter, DMR also will explore a possible tagging program, working in collaboration with other researchers, to expand its study of white sharks in Maine,” said Keliher.
In the statement announcing the joint research venture, Dan McKiernan, director of the Massachusetts DMF, said, “The partnership with Maine DMR is an excellent way to gather more data and expand on our current study. This is a species that brings with it much mystery and this partnership will help close that knowledge gap.”
Cynthia Wigren, CEO of AWSC, said her organization was pleased to join the partnership with the two state fisheries management agencies.
Data collected from the acoustic receivers will also be provided to AWSC and uploaded to the organization’s Sharktivity app. The app provides users with a recap of shark activity detected by receivers, shark sightings information and alerts. The app also allows users to upload their own photos and locations of sharks they spot. Information and app downloads can be found at atlanticwhiteshark.org/sharktivity-app.