Four frozen thresher sharks have washed up in Massachusetts amid a cold snap that has developed into a bomb cyclone, bringing heavy snow and freezing temperatures to the US East Coast.
The male sharks found dead on beaches in Cape Cod were so frozen that researchers could not perform any immediate post-mortem examinations, and had to wait for them to thaw before they could. The latest frozen shark carcass was discovered on New Year’s Eve in an ice pack near Wellfeet, towards the northern hook of Cape Cod.
Thresher sharks are a solitary species that often come to the surface of the water. They are often spotted offshore in Cape Cod during the summer, and migrate south before winter.
While authorities are saying the sharks are freezing to death, Greg Skomal — the senior fisheries scientist for the state Department of Fish and Game who leads the Massachusetts Shark Research program — said that the thresher sharks are dying as they attempt to swim to warmer southern waters, but are getting stranded in shallow waters in Cape Cod Bay and thus become unable to breathe.
“The rapid cooling associated with this cold snap and water temps is forcing the sharks to move south at a faster pace, and the landmass of Cape Cod is contributing to them getting stranded in shallow water,” said Skomal, adding that the exact cause of the sharks’ deaths remains hypothetical at this time.