Cape Cod’s beaches and towns are a bit quieter because of the coronavirus pandemic. But officials are urging caution ahead of this weekend’s July Fourth holiday. After all, the famous Massachusetts destination is still a popular getaway for other summertime travelers: great white sharks.
Great whites are one of God’s most amazing and powerful creatures. They are notable for their size (between 11 and 20 feet long), speed (up to 16 mph), and longevity (70 years or more). These sharks are common in the Northeastern United States, South Africa, Japan, Chile, Oceania, and the Mediterranean Sea.
Cape Cod National Seashore Chief Ranger Leslie Reynolds warns that the powerful predators have recently been coming close enough to shore to be a concern for swimmers. Officials in nearby Orleans, Massachusetts, also have documented at least two shark attacks on seals in recent days.
Gregory Skomal, a prominent shark scientist with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, says he tagged three great whites circling a whale carcass earlier this month.
Massachusetts’ finger-shaped peninsula southeast of Boston holds an area of water known as Cape Cod Bay. The bay saw two shark attacks on humans in 2018. One of them was fatal.
Officials are currently weighing a range of responses to the shark sightings: They want to protect beachgoers and also preserve the region’s tourist economy. They have advised swimmers to remain in waist deep water where possible and avoid areas where sharks have been spotted before.
Great whites have been coming to Cape Cod Bay in greater numbers each summer. The animals prey on the region’s large seal colonies. Most tend to favor the Atlantic Ocean-facing beaches—the ones where seals tend to congregate. But researchers have found them off nearly every part of the area, known locally as “the Cape.”
Local residents concerned about the booming shark population, meanwhile, say they’ll boost their efforts to help protect swimmers this summer.
More pilots have volunteered to radio in shark sightings as they fly over the peninsula, says Heather Doyle. She is co-founder of Cape Cod Ocean Community, a local group that advocates for white shark surveillance and detection measures.
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, a Chatham-based research group, is also offering its Sharktivity smartphone app. The app allows users to report and track shark sightings.
Have you ever seen a shark outside of an aquarium?
(A woman walks her dogs at Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where a boogie boarder was bitten by a shark in 2018 and later died of his injuries. AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)