Increased Great White Shark Sightings Raise Labor Day Concerns For Beachgoers

While millions of Americans are expected to spend their Labor Day weekend flocking to beaches, the holiday comes amid a dramatic increase in sightings of great white sharks off the coast of Cape Cod.

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has been studying the region’s seasonal great white shark population for several years, and this summer they have recorded a dramatic increase in the number of sharks off the cape. With more than a month to go in their monitoring period, the researchers have already spotted as many great white sharks this year as they did last summer, according to ABC News. On Monday, the biologists sighted 23 different great whites in a 10-mile-long stretch from Chatham to Orleans, as the Cape Cod Times notes.

Dr. Greg Skomal, Senior Biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, attributes the uptick in the local shark population to the abundance of seals along the coast. He also pointed out that as the sharks’ preferred prey animal, the seals are responsible for bringing the great whites closer to shores frequented by beachgoers.

“Seals are riding along the shoreline, which of course draws the sharks in very, very close,” he noted.

In addition to the extra sharks on hand, this Labor Day weekend is set to see a marked increase in the number of people traveling. According to AAA travel, over 35 million Americans are expected to take to the highways for the holiday, the highest volume recorded since 2008. Analysts largely cite lower gas prices as a major driving factor for the increased estimates.

While beachgoers stand a dramatically small chance of running afoul of one of the cape’s resident great white sharks, the conservancy has nevertheless managed to document several interesting incidents involving the predators this season. Recently, Dr. Skomal was able to record a great white breaching the surface of the ocean as it chased a seal, the first time such behavior has been filmed in Cape Cod. The researchers have also been able to photograph several predation events, both from the water and the air, with the aid of a spotter pilot. Earlier this summer, they were also instrumental in helping to save a young white shark, since named Jameson, which had become stranded on a sandbar. Kept alive by beachgoers, footage of the great white shark’s rescue went viral, quickly spreading worldwide.

[Photo by Dan Kitwood/ Getty Images]