A Large Tiger Shark Washed Up Dead On Nantucket And Researchers Want To Know More

Jason Graziadei •

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Photo by Jenny Menjivar

A large tiger shark washed up dead near Tom Nevers last week, and a state shark expert is hoping to locate it to learn more about the unusual sighting. 

It is relatively rare to see a tiger shark in the waters around Nantucket, and especially in the spring when water temperatures are still low.

The tiger shark washed up last Tuesday and was pulled out of the surf by a group of beachgoers before disappearing again into the waves. John Chisholm, an adjunct scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, is hoping to track down the shark so a necropsy (animal autopsy) can be performed to determine the cause of death.

"This is really early to see this species in the area," Chisholm stated

According to NOAA, tiger sharks are a highly migratory species that are typically found in tropical and temperate waters.

“This is really, really unique,” Chisholm told the Boston Herald. “The bigger ones are usually down off the (Northeast) Canyons where the water is warmer in July and August...Did someone offshore catch it and release it? Did it travel north in a warm water eddy and then succumb to the cold waters?”

A recent study by NOAA and the University of Miami found that warming ocean waters had expanded tiger sharks’ seasonal distribution in the northwest Atlantic Ocean in recent decades.

“The large scale northward expansion was driven by climate change, specifically warming of the U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem,” the researchers found.

Tiger sharks can measure between 10 to 14 feet long and weigh up to 1,400 pounds. They are not targeted commercially in U.S. waters but can be caught as bycatch.

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