A scientist explains Cape Cod’s 'frozen sharks'
“It’s hard to tell if they froze to death or got caught up in shallow water around Cape Cod, which is notorious for entrapping migrating animals.”
Winter has already taken its toll on Boston and its surrounding areas with record-breaking flooding, frigid temperatures and lots of snow, but are humans the only ones feeling its effects?
The rapid drop of water temperatures in coastal waters may have played a role in the deaths of four thresher sharks that were recently found off Cape Cod in Wellfleet, Brewster and Orleans.
“Media is characterizing them as ‘frozen sharks,’ but we don’t know if that’s entirely accurate,” Dr. Gregory Skomal, senior fisheries scientist at Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, told Metro. “I think temperature played a role in their death to some extent, but it’s hard to tell if they froze to death or got caught up in shallow water around Cape Cod, which is notorious for entrapping migrating animals.”
DMF classifies the sharks as “stranded,” which can happen this time of year as sharks and other marine life migrate to warmer waters, but “not in the number we’re seeing right now,” Skomal said. “We’re up to four dead thresher sharks, but we have seen maybe one every two years stranded in that very same area.”
Two of the four thresher sharks have been necropsied, and there were no signs of physical trauma from a net or a hook.
“The necropsies don’t reveal much because a frozen fish is a frozen fish,” Skomal said. “It’s really guesstimating what happened based on the behavior of this species and what we know about its distribution and migration.”
As of Friday, one shark remained frozen solid at a facility in Rhode Island, while the other couldn’t be retrieved yet due dangerous conditions where it is located.