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Two great white sharks tagged off Massachusetts coast

  • Story Highlights
  • Taggings of great whites are the first in the Atlantic Ocean, state officials say
  • Beaches in Chatham, Massachusetts, closed after shark sightings
  • Great white sharks are relatively rare in New England, state officials say
  • Tags will let scientists track the two sharks
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(CNN) -- The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has tagged two great white sharks off Cape Cod in an area where shark sightings have been reported, state officials said Sunday.

A great white shark is tagged Saturday off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Shark sightings closed nearby beaches.

A great white shark is tagged Saturday off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Shark sightings closed nearby beaches.

The first tagging Saturday marked the first time a great white shark had been successfully tagged in the Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. coast, the division said in a statement. A second shark was tagged Saturday afternoon, officials said.

The taggings took place in the waters near Chatham, Massachusetts, two days after Greg Skomal, shark expert for the Division of Marine Fisheries, reported as many as five large sharks were seen near Monomoy Island, a National Wildlife Refuge off the southern elbow of Cape Cod. The island is about a mile away from Chatham's Lighthouse Beach, a public swimming area.

Chatham's beaches were closed to swimmers after the sightings, Skomal said. CNN affiliate WCVB reported that all of Chatham's east-facing beaches were closed after three sharks came within 75 yards of the coastline. Video Watch who is making money from sharks »

The beaches will be off-limits to swimmers until the middle of the week, officials told WCVB.

After the sightings, Skomal and other biologists set out to identify the species, the division statement said. Skomal identified a great white shark on Friday, and then the two were tagged Saturday.

"The tags, which use satellite-based technology to record where a shark travels, allow scientists to better understand migratory patterns," the division statement said.

Great white sharks are relatively rare in New England, the division statement said, but have been seen feeding near seal colonies.

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Massachusetts has recorded only four shark attacks since 1670, two of which were fatal. The last fatal shark attack in Massachusetts happened in 1936.

Researchers have also tagged great white sharks off the coast of South Africa.

All About Sharks and RaysCape CodMassachusetts

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