Shark, the word conjures up different images and emotions in everyone but whether its out of fear or fascination one thing is for certain, people can’t get enough of them. Sharks and their relatives the skates and rays, are cartilaginous fishes known as Elasmobranchs. Note that although there are key characteristics that set each group apart their general biology is so similar that throughout this site the title of shark will be used synonymously with Elasmobranch to describe them.
When most people think about sharks Massachusetts is probably not the first place to pop into their minds however the state does have quite a diversity of elasmobranchs in its waters. From the small deepwater chain dogfish to the infamous great white, there are more species than most people realize. This diversity is mainly due to the states geographic location in the North Western Atlantic.
Massachusetts, more specifically Cape Cod and George’s Bank, serves as a dividing line between cooler northern waters and warmer southern waters. This division is a limiting factor in the range of many species of fish including sharks, skates and rays. Where these waters converge off the Massachusetts coast, there is an abundant supply of nutrients. These nutrients make Mass waters very productive supporting a great abundance of Marine Life that spans from copepods to whales.
Another aspect that adds to the variety of sharks in Massachusetts waters is bathymetry. From shoal fishing banks to deepwater canyons, from benthic to pelagic, there are quite a wide range of habitats and just as many species to inhabit them.
The purpose of this website is to provide shark enthusiasts with information on the elasmobranch species found in Massachusetts’ waters. Technically State waters extend out 3 miles from shore where Federal waters extend beyond that out to the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) line. Of course Marine Creatures don’t recognize these boundaries so limiting the species covered on this website to those found only in ‘State Waters’ would exclude some species that Massachusetts anglers or researchers may encounter. Instead this site will address all the species that have been documented in both State and Federal waters and the immediate adjacent waters outside the EEZ.
Roughly there have been about two dozen different species of Elasmobranchs recorded in the waters off of Massachusetts. Of these only half would be considered commonly occurring. The rest are infrequent visitors. However, in the interest of learning more about the diversity of elasmobranchs all will be documented on this site. Each species profile will include information on the range, size, biology, and occurrence in MA as well as references. The species will be divided into three groups Sharks, Skates and Rays. Readers can browse each group for information on specific species or they can begin with the Species Guide. This guide will help readers identify species through a dichotomous key which will be especially useful to anglers who need to identify their catch.
In addition to providing species information, this site will also feature sections covering other Elasmobranch related topics. Here's a brief description of each section:
News -this link will bring you to a section of our forum which will cover all the latest shark, skate and ray headlines.
Biology -these pages will provide a quick overview of general shark biology. They will touch on the basics of what makes a shark a shark. From evolution to anatomy, this section will provide important information for those just starting off.
Management -Since fishing is the most common way for people to come in contact with sharks this section will cover both the commercial and recreational rules as well as State and Federal regulations. It will also feature important information on protected species.
Research -this section will focus on current shark research being conducted by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries as well as other researchers in Massachusetts. It will also cover important topics in Elasmobranch research.
Interactions -this section will provide visitors with information on human/shark interactions. Topics will include Fishing, Diving, Watching and Massachusetts shark attacks. It will also provide information on ways people can interact with sharks.
Links -this page will feature a list of other websites that contain information on sharks, skates and rays.
There is also a Forum where readers can register and participate in shark related discussion on a number of different topics.
Finally visitors can help contribute to the site by submitting reports of shark sightings to the Massachusetts Shark Research Database. Just follow the link below to get to the online submission form: