On Monday June 26, 2023, a satellite-tagged white shark ‘pinged’ less than 1 nautical mile off of Jenness Beach in Rye, NH. While white sharks frequent New Hampshire waters from May through October, they often go undetected.
This particular shark, referred to as Anne Bonny by marine biologists, was tagged by Ocearch, a global organization conducting research on sharks. Anne Bonny has been tracked by Ocearch since they tagged her off the coast of Ocracoke, North Carolina in April 2023.
In an effort to advance our knowledge of sharks, Ocearch humanely catches, restrains, and samples shark species. Individuals are tagged with satellite-tracking technology before their release, such as a SPOT tag, so researchers can gain further insight on their movement and behavior.
At 9 feet 3 inches, and 425 pounds, Anne Bonny is considered a juvenile white shark. As such, she likely consumes fish, small sharks, and rays. Adults have a broader diet, including seals, dophins, sea turtles and scavenged whale blubber.
The tracker shows Anne Bonny off Ocracoke, North Carolina on April 21, then passing through Rhode Island Sound and Cape Code and as far north as the Canadian Grand Manan Island before heading south.
White sharks can be found worldwide in temperate and subtropical waters, including on the Atlantic coast from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. Caribbean. Off the Pacific Ocean, white sharks can be found off Alaska, California and Hawaii.
“Rumors about the presence of sharks near the beach can spread like wildfire, and so can misinformation about our ocean’s great predators,” said Brian Yurasits, Seacoast Science Center (SSC) Marine Mammal Rescue Community Outreach Manager. “It is normal for sharks to inhabit the Gulf of Maine.”
Another non-profit that conducts shark research and education specific to New England is Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC). AWSC operates the Sharktivity App, using acoustic tags applied to free-swimming sharks as well as publicly-submitted photos. Their current research examines movement and behavior, with a focus on public safety.
Using a spotter plane to locate sharks from above, AWSC communicates their location to a vessel that’s equipped with tagging gear. Once tagged, these white sharks can then be detected by acoustic receivers (buoys) that have been placed along the coast. Each time a white shark passes by a receiver, its presence is recorded.
The town of Rye’s Fire Department deployed four acoustic receivers off the New Hampshire coast in 2022, located off Pirate’s Cove, Foss, Cable, and Sawyers beaches. Last year, the Foss Beach receiver picked up just one 12-foot white shark named Rocinante. All four receivers have recently been re-deployed for surveillance this summer.
The most recent white shark sighting detected in New Hampshire’s waters as indicated on AWSC’s Sharktivity App occurred on June 4, 2023.
“When SSC’s Marine Mammal Rescue staff respond to a seal with suspected shark predation wounds, we enage shark biologist John Chisholm for confirmation,” said Yurasits. “John then reports confirmed predations on the Sharktivity App.”
Since 2014, SSC Marine Mammal Rescue (MMR) has responded to 17 suspected or confirmed shark predations on seals.
The presence of both white sharks and seals in New England’s coastal waters today is considered a conservation success story. Fifty years ago, these animals were both heavily exploited by humans, but have since rebounded thanks to environmental legislation such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act and protections on white sharks.
To ensure public safety and the conservation of our marine environment, it’s crucial to advance our collective understanding of sharks and seals, and stay educated about how we can share the shore with these animals to prevent human-wildlife interactions. This is why SSC partnered with UNH Sea Grant, AWSC, and Shoals Marine Lab to create a shark safety resource for New Hampshire beachgoers.
To learn more about shark safety and the latest marine science and conservation efforts, visit seagrant.unh.edu/shark-safety-facts-new-hampshire.
Seacoast Science Center is the federally-designated response institution for seals, whales, dolphins, and porpoises in New Hampshire and Northeastern Massachusetts (from Essex, MA north). To report a sick, injured, or deceased marine mammal in this area, please call MMR’s 24-hour hotline at 603-997-9448.