A tuna fishing expedition turned unexpectedly dramatic Wednesday morning when a Rhode Island family found itself the inadvertant audience of a great white shark's breakfast buffet.
Peter Mottur, a Portsmouth, R.I., native, and his wife, Debbie, children Abigail and Charlie and mother, Libby, were hanging out on their boat around 8:30 a.m. when they spotted the shark near the south tip of Monomoy Island, off Chatham, Mass., only a few hundred feet off the beach.
As Mottur maneuvered his craft closer, the group observed a dead, gray seal floating in the bay with a fin circling it. Family members whipped out their cameras and managed to capture the ensuing meal with both still and video images recorded over a 10-minute span.
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Great white sharks are the largest predatory fish on Earth, according to National Geographic. They can grow to up to 20 feet and weigh close to 5 tons.
In an email to the Huffington Post, Mottur described the shark -- which seemed unperturbed by its captivated audience -- as measuring at least 15-feet long and weighing about 2,500 and 3,000 pounds.
"My kids were excited and terrified at the same time," Mottur told HuffPost. "They have watched Jaws with me several times, but they knew this was the real deal."
Mottur also observed what appeared to be a tag of some sort on the shark, and after they left, he contacted Dr. Greg Skomal, a shark biologist and leader of the Massachusetts Shark Research Program (MSRP). Skomal told Mottur that the tag was likely an acoustic tag, and that there was a listening station nearby.
Acoustic tags are electronic tags that transmit information on a frequency that does not disturb the tagged creature. Such tags transmit code picked up by a listening station on the ocean floor and can transmit data including swim speed, depth and water temperature.
"Skomal was very excited about the images and footage and this is apparently very rare to capture in this area," Mottur wrote.
It is not unusual, however, for great white sharks to turn up in Massachusetts waters.
According to the state's Department of Fish and Game, most shark sighting have come from the Monomoy Island area, which is home to the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge as well as thousands of gray and harbor seals -- a great white favorite.
Skomal began tagging the formidable creatures in 2009, and his program was recently endowed with a $25,000 grant from the Sacco Foundation to continue the research.
A flurry of great white shark sightings on the Pacific Coast made headlines earlier this month, potentially hampering conservationist efforts to have the shark added to the state's endangered species list, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
According to advocacy group Oceana, sharks are threatened by finning, bycatch and fishing pressure. They write: "Of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 50 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, but only the white, whale and basking sharks are protected internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Sharks now represent the greatest percentage of threatened marine species on the IUCN Red List of threatened species."
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