June 22, 2015
First Great White Shark Of The Season Spotted Off Cape Cod

Researchers with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy have spotted the first great white of the season in Cape Cod waters, marking the beginning of the summer tagging season.

The white shark was spotted off South Beach in Orleans on Monday, according to CBS Boston. Dr. Greg Skomal, of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, was working with the white shark conservancy when the animal was sighted and recorded. The conservancy's spotter pilot, Wayne Davis, managed to capture images of the interaction from above, revealing researchers on the prow of the chase vessel, holding tagging spears near the white shark.

The specimen was believed to measure roughly 15 feet long, according to NECN, and water temperatures in the region were in the 60s. The shark was documented by researchers as part of an ongoing study, meant to examine the recurrent white shark population that has flocked to the cape in recent years, drawn by a vibrant and growing seal colony in the area.

Though the white sharks' presence is enough to give many beachgoers pause, the local community has embraced the animals in a unique way, according to Dr. Skomal, who is one of the preeminent white shark researchers on the East Coast. As the predators have proven a boon to regional tourism, they have found themselves welcome guests off the coast of Chatham despite their fearsome (and often undeserved) reputation.

Authorities in Massachusetts have implemented regulations to curb unwanted or potentially harmful interactions with the white sharks, yet Dr. Skomal asserted that a population uptick won't necessarily correlate with increased danger for beachgoers, though caution is warranted.

"It's going to be a situation where we have coexistence," he noted. "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."

Last year, Dr. Skomal and the White Shark Conservancy's team identified and tagged 68 individual great white sharks off the Massachusetts coastline though they believe many more are likely present in the region. As part of their ongoing study, they will continue documenting white sharks off Cape Cod throughout the summer, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

[Image: Wayne Davis/ Atlantic White Shark Conservancy via Twitter]