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Fairfield Native Dives Into Shark Studies

Greg Skomal has the kind of job many kids dream about — but give up by the time they reach adulthood. The Fairfield native is, quite literally, a shark hunter. Skomal spends most of his time on boats off the Atlantic coast, catching and tagging sharks for scientific research. And in doing so, he lives out his boyhood fascination with deadly fish.

"It's just an animal that intrigues me," Greg says. "Why do people like dogs? Why do people like ... iguanas? Everyone's different in their interests."

So for the last 23 years, Greg's life has been split between the terrifyingly thrilling and the terribly mundane. The exciting portion is shark tagging. Greg dives into shark-infested waters—in a protective cage, of course. He then lures a shark close enough to place an electronic tag on one of its fins, which records data such as location, water temperature and swimming speed.

The rest of his time is spent in a lab in the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, studying the information beaming back to his computers. Though it may seem like the boring part of the job, Greg insists he finds it just as stimulating as his time on the high seas.

"Certainly being on the water and around live sharks is about as exciting as a job could ever be," Greg says. "But translating what I learned to meaningful information that can be used for conservation, that's also satisfying."

Greg says small species of sharks live in Long Island Sound , including sand sharks and dogfish. But he focuses on bigger game—the great white. He led the first team to successfully tag the 20-foot beasts with satellite trackers in 2009. He says they have given him mountains of valuable data on the animal's behaviors—including at least one connection to some other Connecticut natives.

"Their movements so far have been pretty mundane," Greg says. "They're like snow birds — moving from cold New England waters in the summer to northern Florida in the winter."

Greg will talk about his research at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2, at Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium . A special IMAX screening of "Island of the Sharks" will follow his presentation. Tickets for Skomal’s lecture and the IMAX film are $12.50 for adults and $10 for children ages 2-12. Aquarium members receive $2 discounts. Reserve tickets by calling the aquarium at 203-852-0700, Ext. 2206.

Would you jump into shark-infested waters? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.

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