UNE marine biologist puts Maine on the map on Shark Week

Professor James Sulikowski
Professor James Sulikowski

July 25, 2017

Sulikowski and team caught a baby porbeagle shark, known as a "phantom shark" because the species is so difficult to catch
Sulikowski and team caught and tagged a baby porbeagle shark, known as a "phantom shark" because the species is so difficult to catch

The University of New England’s resident shark expert is putting Maine shark research on the map after his second appearance on Discovery’s Shark Week.

James Sulikowski, Ph.D., professor in the UNE’s Department of Marine Science, was heavily featured in “Shark Vortex,” which aired Monday July 24, 2017. The episode followed Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries and underwater cinematographer Joe Romeiro of 333 Productions as they searched for three species of warm-blooded sharks common in New England.

Skomal and Romeiro started their journey in Rhode Island to look at the mako shark, and then traveled to Cape Cod to study to great white. But their biggest challenge was to find the illusive and rare porbeagle, which Romeiro had tried to catch on camera in the past and failed. They turned to Sulikowski for his expertise in locating and studying the species.

“It’s an interesting shark in that it’s endothermic and we know very little about it,” Sulikowski said an interview portion of the episode. “In a sense, we call it the phantom shark because it’s so hard to catch.”

“One thing that gave me hope about chasing the phantom this time was that James has actually tagged these sharks, and he had tracked where they went and he was showing that they returned,” Romeiro said.

After an unsuccessful day attempting to track down and catch the shark, the team finally landed a baby porbeagle on their second day of fishing. The team assisted Sulikowski as he outfitted the shark with a satellite tracking tag, and Romeiro jumped in the water to capture the shark on video as it was released.

“I was most impressed with the fact that even at that size, this is a very young shark, likely newborn, it is generating enough heat to keep it warm in that surrounding very, very cold water that it lives in,” Skomal said. “You know, James talks about the fact that this might be a nursery area for porbeagle sharks. Well that’s direct evidence.”

Watch Sulikowski talk about “Shark Vortex” on “207.”

Watch Sulikowski describe the making of “Shark Vortex.”

Watch a story about UNE’s shark research on NBC Boston.

Learn more about shark research at UNE.

To learn more about the University of New England’s Department of Marine Sciences visit www.une.edu/cas/marine

To learn more about the University of New England’s Center for Excellence in Marine Sciences, visit www.une.edu/research/msc

To apply, visit www.une.edu/admissions

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