Sharks on Cape Cod- should we be concerned?
My creative husband Byron just made the comparison to sharks and seals on Cape Cod to the West Side Story of the rivalry gangs- the Sharks and the Jets.
Just a quick reminder of the story which was set in the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City in the mid 1950’s. The neighborhood was recently cleared for the urban renewal project for the Lincoln center. The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs- the Sharks from Puerto Rico and the Jets, a white gang.
Actual similarities exist between the two stories. The Sharks and the Jets were wanting control of an area in NYC. The police chase the Sharks off, and then the Jets plan how they can assure their continued dominance of the street.
The seals have survived disease and seal hunt bounties in our Cape Cod habitat and were near the brink of extinction, and now because they are federally protected by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act the seal population is expanding by leaps and bounds. After all – they are very happy here on Cape Cod- the seals are reassuming their ecological roles and are back in force! David Johnston, an assistant professor at Duke University, estimates that between 30,000 and 50,000 seals are living in the waters of Southeastern Massachusetts, primarily on and around Cape Cod.
Feelings about their return, however, are decidedly mixed.
Most people agree that seals are darling! There is something very endearing about that sweet face.
On the other side- there are many others that are concerned about this increased population of seals as told in the Cape Cod Times- Apr 6, 2017
“Fishermen complain about seals taking their catch, boats run into them, some question their effect on water quality or their potential to spread disease, and raise concerns about the threat of a rapidly expanding great white shark population, visiting Cape waters to dine on blubber.
Seals are the primary draw for great white sharks. State shark scientist Gregory Skomal has so far identified 270 individual great white sharks in tagging studies. But beach safety depends on knowing more about what sharks do and why. To do that, Skomal said he needs to know how they hunt.
“I can study the heck out of sharks, but I really need more data on what the seals are doing,” Skomal said.
But there is much about the gray seals scientists don’t know, including a lot of the basics, like what they eat. While some studies show them mainly eating sand lance, a small sand-burrowing fish, fishermen told the commission about seals cleaning out lobster pots and eating the thousands of pounds of stomachs, livers and other soft parts off fish captured in gill nets”
And so there is a seascape of legitimate concern about those sharing the waters with seals and now an increase in the sharks visiting Cape Cod in the summer months when so many swimmers are in our waters.
Back to the question of should we be concerned?
The answer is yes!
Should we stop doing the things that we enjoy in our Cape Cod waters- No!
Like everything in life- we all need to be educated and aware. Shown below are some helpful suggestions:
Know where the shark sighting are:
The Cape Cod Times wrote a recent article, including the above map, showing where the 2017 shark sittings were. It’s important that we all stay informed.
Follow Safety Protocol:
Currently, safety protocol requires beaches to fly Dangerous Maine Life Flag (which have a picture of shark on them) every day during the tourist season. When a shark is spotted near a swimming area, the beach is immediately closed. Aside from minding warnings and beach closings, the National Park Service at Cape Cod National Seashore recommends that swimmers steer clear of seals, swim in groups, and avoid swimming at dawn and dusk — when sharks are the most active.
How to see Seals and Sharks:
And because seals and sharks are here to stay on Cape Cod, many want to see them up close- in a safe way. Check out a previous blog that gives you all the information to see the seals on Cape Cod.
And if you are an adventuresome sort and want to see the dangerous sharks on Cape Cod get in contact with the great folks at Cape Cod Shark Adventures ……..where they safely bring you up close and personal! Check out their web site of information on boating and diving options.
And because Cape Cod is home to many species of sharks during the warmer months of the year- you may see blues, makos, threshers, great whites, and basking sharks.
Cape Cod Shark Adventures has perfected the game of finding and interacting with these animals- both above and below the water. With years of experience and a flawless safety record, they provide novice and experienced divers alike a world class day of adventure on the water. If you would like a more safe experience, they also provide sightings from the safety of their boats.
After a day of adventure seeing seals and sharks on Cape Cod, come back to your luxury room at the Captain Freeman Inn and enjoy a glass of lavender lemonade along with an afternoon treat and relax by the pool which is salt water, solar heated and surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Here’s to a safe summer of shark sightings on Cape Cod!