February 13, 2017
Great White Shark Season Kicks Off In Cape Cod As Researchers Prepare

Summer has arrived on Cape Cod, and the region is preparing for an anticipated influx of great white sharks in keeping with last summer's events, when researchers tagged and documented 68 of the predatory fish.

The white sharks have become regular seasonal visitors to the area, drawn by an abundant population of seals that also call the cape home. As Wicked Local reports, policies that have protected the western North Atlantic gray seal have allowed the animals' population to boom over the last few decades, and there is now evidence that white sharks have begun to actively prey on them off Cape Cod.

While the presence of great whites may be a concern for some beachgoers, the predators represent a boon to the local economy, as tourists flock to the region to observe the sharks. According to Dr. Greg Skomal, a senior biologist with the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries department and one of the leading white shark experts on the East Coast, the predators have been embraced by the local community in a unique way.

"If anything I've noticed, among the business community of the town of Chatham, which is the epicenter of white shark activity, they've embraced these animals as a way to make money and draw people to the town," he noted. "Virtually every shop on Main Street is selling some kind of shark trinket or shirt, you name it. I think it's been a positive response, one of people trying to embrace these animals."

As the Daily Beast reports, Skomal and a group of fellow researchers are working to actively document the white shark population, as part of an extended tagging study. Last year, the team was able to tag 68 individual white sharks, though it is believed far more may migrate to the region.

"We literally use a plane to locate the sharks, go up to them in a boat, and video them with GoPros," Skomal observed, detailing their process. "We literally do that."

Last year, the researchers' efforts resulted in several stunning photographs, including one series that documented a great white preying upon a seal. The photographs were referred to by some as the "holy grail" of white shark predation photos, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

Earlier this month, authorities in Massachusetts instigated regulations in order to govern the burgeoning tourism and cage diving industry that is quickly springing up around the great white population. According to Dr. Skomal, while some concern over the great whites can be justified, the animals are highly unlikely to see humans as a viable food source anytime soon.

"It's going to be a situation where we have coexistence," he asserted. "It's happened in other parts of the world. If you look at the shark attack statistics in California, where a few decades ago they went through a similar phenomenon with the seal populations responding to protection and white shark attacks on seals increasing, there was no similar trend in attacks on humans."

[Photo by Ryan Pierse / Getty Images]