Filmmakers capture footage of rare ‘ghost’ sharks off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts

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Friday 02 September 2022

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PHOTO: 333 productions

Two Rhode Islanders – wildlife filmmakers Joe Romeiro and his wife, URI marine biologist and Ph.D. student Lauren Romeiro – have captured rare video footage and photographs of rare porbeagle sharks, also known as the shark “ghost”, swimming off the coast of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

Porbeagle sharks typically reach 8.2 feet in length and a weight of around 300 pounds and North Atlantic sharks grow larger than Southern Hemisphere sharks.

Named for its “porpoise” shape and for its “beagle-like” hunting prowess, this little-known deep-sea predator is often confused with its close relatives, the Great White and Mako sharks.

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“There are very few photos or film footage of free-swimming porbeagle sharks anywhere in the world,” says Joe Romeiro. “We were at night on our research vessel capturing what few people have ever seen, hoping for a single porbeagle, but then we saw five interacting with each other. It was the maternal burden!

The Romeiros have spent countless hours on the R/V WARFISH in the waters off New England, documenting and observing the sharks that inhabit this region. After years of research to better understand the behavior of the porbeagle, they dubbed it the “ghost shark” because of its elusiveness.

“Of more than 500 species, porbeagle are one of only five capable of warming their bodies, making them super predators in the cold waters of the North Atlantic,” said Lauren Romeiro. “Porbeagle dominate this area during the cold winter months.”

The Romeiros say their shark research involves non-invasive sampling techniques that avoid disturbing the natural behavior of critically endangered animals.

“Traditionally, sharks have only been studied by methods that involve capturing a few individuals. This does not give a true and complete picture of the behavior of the entire population, such as where they spend their time and why, because the method can alter their natural behavior,” said Lauren Romeiro. “Our research technique allows us to observe many different animals at the same time as well as at different stages of their lives, which shows that we don’t have no need to rely on capturing animals to get data.”

The couple owns 333 Productions.

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