Authorities in Long Island reportedly have scarcely any protocol in place to protect swimmers from a great white shark like Mary Lee, and while that fact may terrify some beachgoers, scientific understanding of white sharks suggests that the circumstances may not be as dire as they sound.
Mary Lee approached Long Island yesterday, as the Inquisitr previously reported, after a long journey up the East Coast. Though her movements are visible to the public as part of Ocearch’s tracking program, she likely isn’t the only white shark in the region, as the predators are moving to congregate off Cape Cod at this time of the year. Given her impressive size, weighing in at nearly 3,500 pounds, beachgoers expressed their fear knowing that the great white was just a few miles off the shoreline.
— Laura Geggel (@LauraGeggel) May 13, 2015
“It’s a little scary knowing there’s a shark in the water,” 19-year-old Kyle Russo observed. “You couldn’t pay me to go into the water.”
Adding to their concern is the fact that Long Island authorities have few protocols that can effectively warn against an approaching great white. As the New York Post notes, no system exists to relay tracking information from a group like Ocearch to area parks departments. Beaches would close if a great white was sighted within a quarter mile, yet it is up to lifeguards and park personnel to spot the shark before such a call is made. Those lifeguards, however, aren’t on duty until Memorial Day.
Though the situation may seem dire on its face, scientific insight suggests that an overabundance of concern may be unwarranted. White sharks are no strangers to Atlantic coastlines, and approach the shore far more often than most beachgoers understand. As marine biologist Bryan Frazier pointed out while speaking with NJ.com, Mary Lee herself is showing researchers that large great white sharks take advantage of shallow waters to feed.
“This is one of the few great white sharks in the Atlantic that has been tagged and they are constantly coming close to shore without interacting with humans.”
— BI Science (@BI_Science) May 4, 2015
Still, a lack of fear does not mean a lack of caution, and an understanding of sharks and their behavior can help swimmers avoid a potentially fatal encounter. Behind the prejudices and fear-mongering, the great white shark is a wild animal, and like all living things, it needs to eat. Humans aren’t on the menu for these massive predators, but at times they confuse swimmers for their favorite prey, according to boat captain Paul Ivey, 69, of Rockville Centre.
“A shark like that can take your leg off in a second, especially if they think you’re a seal. When you’re wearing a wetsuit or surfing with a board, that’s what they think you are.”
Local fishermen attest that they are seeing more seals every year, and the increase in prey animals is likely to draw a growing number of white sharks to the region in the future. Cape Cod is already a well-established seasonal feeding ground for the great whites, largely due to an abundant local seal population.
Even though beachgoers may be frightened to know that white sharks are swimming in such close proximity to them, their best defense remains an understanding of the animals. Visitors to the Long Island and Cape Cod coastlines can also console themselves with the knowledge that despite the great whites’ presence, the odds remain 1 in 3,700,000 that they will fall victim to a fatal shark attack at any point in their lifetime.
[Photo by Ryan Pierse / Getty Images]