WAKEFIELD, R.I. (September 1, 2022): Wildlife cinematographers Joe Romeiro and his wife, URI marine biologist and PhD student Lauren Romeiro, have documented rare video footage and still photographs of rare porbeagle sharks swimming off the coast of RI and Southeastern Massachusetts.
Named for its ‘porpoise’ shape and for its ‘beagle’-like hunting prowess, this little-known deep-water predator is often mistaken for its close relatives, the Great White and Mako sharks. “There are very few photos or film footage of free-swimming porbeagle sharks anywhere in the world,” states Joe. “We were out at night on our research vessel to capture what few have ever witnessed, hoping for just one porbeagle but then we saw five interacting with each other. It was the motherload!”
The Romeiros have spent countless hours on the R/V WARFISH in the waters off New England documenting and observing sharks that call this region home. After years of research trying to better understand the porbeagle’s behavior, they have nicknamed it the “Phantom Shark” due to its elusiveness.
“Out of over 500 species, porbeagles are one of only five that are able to warm their bodies, making them a super predator in the cold waters of the North Atlantic,” Lauren comments. “The porbeagle dominates this area in the cold winter months.”
Recently the Romeiros revealed their groundbreaking footage of porbeagle sharks on their YouTube channel (https://bit.ly/3A6AHop and https://bit.ly/3SrFZC1). As seen on video, two porbeagles challenge each other and then three others show up. “Were they there to mate or was this their hunting ground? Whatever the reason, they were all very aware of each other,” Lauren states. “We want to better understand their movements, behaviors and social interactions. This encounter not only helps add to our knowledge of this rare species of shark, it helps us gain the data needed to further their protection from endangerment.”
Joe and Lauren’s shark research involves non-invasive sampling techniques that avoid disturbing the critically endangered animals’ natural behavior. “Traditionally sharks have only been studied through methods that involve capturing a few individuals. It does not provide a true and full picture of the behavior of the whole population such as where they are spending their time and why, because the method can alter their natural behavior,” states Lauren. “Our research technique allows us to observe many different animals at one time as well as at different life stages, showing that we don’t need to rely on catching animals for data.”
Joe and Lauren Romeiro are a multiple award-winning team from Rhode Island who founded 333 Productions (www.333productions.com), a production studio focused on producing wildlife films and photography content. Joe and Lauren have some of the only photos and video of free swimming porbeagle sharks in the Western North Atlantic. To find out more about their work, visit www.333productions.com and their Instagram accounts at @joeromeiro333 or @laurenromeiro333.