Memorial Day may be the unofficial start of summer, but in Cape Cod, it’s also the unofficial start of shark season.
Now, right on schedule, a group of whale watchers has seen the first great white shark of the season. What’s more, they were able to record the shark as it attacked a seal.
“Today’s 10 a.m. trip was left in awe when we encountered a large great white shark predate a juvenile gray seal on Stellwagen Bank [National Marine Sanctuary],” Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch posted on Facebook last weekend. The group also posted a 35-second video of the attack.
“The entire event only lasted around 7 minutes from when we first saw the shark quickly break the surface of the water, in what we think was the initial strike, to when the seal was consumed,” Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch continued.
While the shark is difficult to see in the video, Dolphin Fleet estimated it was more than 12 feet long, according to CBS News.
The encounter may have been the first great white shark sighting at Cape Cod this summer, but it certainly won’t be the last. One researcher said hundreds of the sharks may pass through the waters off Massachusetts’s coast before the end of the year.
“I anticipate that dozens to hundreds of white sharks will move into Massachusetts’s waters over the period of July to October,” said shark expert Dr. Greg Skomal, according to CBS Boston. “They will not all be here at the same time, but they will move through this area.”
Why Great White Sharks Love Cape Cod
Cape Cod is a popular summer destination for humans. Cape Cod National Seashore, for instance, is home to 40 miles of pristine sandy beach as well as lighthouses, cultural landscapes, and even cranberry bogs.
Great white sharks, however, prefer the area too — especially the Atlantic Ocean-facing side of Cape Cod — because that’s where they find seals to eat.
“Cape Cod’s waters are part of a natural and wild marine ecosystem with a rich diversity of sea life, including sharks,” according to Cape Cod National Seashore.
“Seals are the major prey species for the great white shark, and as the seal population increases, the great white shark has become more numerous,” Cape Cod National Seashore continues. “There are confirmed reports of great white sharks feeding on seals close to shore. Spotter planes flying along the Outer Cape have also observed great white sharks near swimming beaches.”
Indeed, the numbers of gray seals continue to increase along the coast of New England due to the protection granted to them by law under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to Cape Cod Xplore.
In recent years, great white sharks have increasingly been showing up in Cape Cod waters to feed on the seals when the water begins to warm.
They typically begin arriving in late May or early June, although their numbers peak from August to October, Cape Cod Xplore continues. Then, by December, the sharks begin to head toward warmer waters near the southeastern U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico.
How To Be Shark Smart
If you plan to visit Cape Cod this summer, the staff at Cape Cod National Seashore wants you to “Be Shark Smart.”
Chief among those tips is to remember that, since sharks hunt for seals in shallow water, it’s prudent to stay close to shore where rescuers can reach you, and don’t swim by yourself. Instead, swim, paddle, kayak, and surf in groups.
Other tips to be shark smart are to avoid areas where seals are present, avoid areas where schools of fish are visible, avoid murky or low-visibility water, and limit splashing.
Finally, of course, remember to follow all signage and flag warnings at beaches as well as instructions from lifeguards.
You can learn more about sharks at Cape Cod and find tips on how to be shark smart at Shark Safety at Cape Cod.
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