Watch Out for Great White Sharks in Cape Cod This Summer
A scene from the shark horror movie "Jaws" may not be imminent, but popular beach spot Cape Cod is bracing for a season of increased shark sightings this summer.
In 2016, for the second year in a row, the great white shark population has been increasing in the historically cold waters off the coast of Massachusetts, the Associated Press reported.
Scientists counted 147 great white sharks by plane in 2016, up from only 80 in 2014, according to the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. A rise in the number of juvenile sharks has also indicated to scientists that the species is repopulating in the beaches near Cape Cod.
Authorities had to close several beaches during the summer of 2016 as a result of great white sightings. One scientist said that while shark attacks are a rare occurrence, given the proximity of the great whites to surfers and swimmers in Cape Cod, a fatal attack is likely to take place at some time in the near future.
“It’s not if, it’s when, in terms of somebody being fatally attacked. We’ve got seals being eaten within 100 meters [330 feet] of surfers. Think about that,” Greg Skomal from the marine fisheries division told National Geographic.
Great whites have increasingly made the summer migration to Cape Cod for several reasons, including a spike in the local seal population and a changing climate.
Hunters once poached the local seals nearly to extinction, leading to the creation of a wildlife refuge on Monomoy Island. The population has not only rebounded but is now plentiful, spreading farther from Monomoy and attracting the great whites that prey on them.
Warming waters have also pushed higher numbers of sharks farther north. While a handful of sharks have historically made the trek all the way to Massachusetts—a shark attack was recorded near Cape Cod in 1936—the numbers that make the migration have risen over the past several years, according to a study by Progress in Oceanography.