Great White Shark Research

This page was updated on November 9, 2020

White Shark Maine DMR is undertaking a research project in collaboration with the the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC) and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) in an effort that will provide information about the presence of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in Maine's inshore waters, their migration patterns and habitat use.

Understanding great white shark migration patterns and habitat use is important both for public safety and because as an apex predator, they are an important indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem.

The work is being supported by AWSC, a non-profit that works to advance white shark research, education and public safety. The AWSC has donated twelve acoustic receivers to be used in Maine waters as part of the program’s development. These receivers, along with additional devices provided by DMF, Maine DMR, and potential other sources, will help to gain greater coverage along the coastline.

ReceiverCurrently, Maine DMR science Bureau staff are working to deploy several acoustic receivers to determine potential presence and habitat use of white sharks in areas with beach activity. In 2021, the project will grow to involve the placement of 20 or more acoustic receivers in near-shore Maine waters. These receivers will capture data from transmitters placed on white sharks by scientists. White shark tagging in the New England region has been ongoing since 2010, and currently there are approximately 210 white sharks carrying transmitters.

The department has deployed one receiver near Bailey Island, the location of a fatal great white shark attack in July, 2020, and another near Popham Beach State Park. Both locations were chosen because nearby aggregations of seals, a favorite prey of great white sharks, increase the likelihood of shark presence and the potential for interactions with humans.

Receiver sites

Other locations, determined by DMR Science Bureau staff in collaboration with Massachusetts DMF, include Richmond Island, Eagle Island, Libbyshears, Goose Rocks, Bumpkin Island, and Wells.

All sites are chosen to ensure that data supports efforts to protect public health and to provide important information about migration and habitat use of great white sharks in the Gulf of Maine.

Receivers will be retrieved, and data downloaded by DMR Science Bureau staff. It will then be shared with Mass DMF which will incorporate it into its ongoing research.

Data from the acoustic receivers will be also be provided to AWSC which will upload it to their Sharktivity app. The app provides users with a recap of shark activity detected by receivers, in addition to 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 https://www.atlanticwhiteshark.org/sharktivity-app.

Marine Patrol is encouraging anyone who sees a shark to report it to a local Marine Patrol officer. Contact information for Marine Patrol can be found at https://www.maine.gov/dmr/marine-patrol/marine-contact.html

The information will also be shared with state and local officials which will determine any necessary actions to protect public safety.

Other Information:

Shark research in Massachusetts

Shark movement and habitat

Seasonal Distribution and Historic Trends in Abundance of White Sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, in the Western North Atlantic Ocean Movements of the white shark Carcharodon carcharias in the North Atlantic Ocean

Atlantic White Shark Conservancy

Also see the Species Info page for more general information for many species.