Great White Shark Boom Off Cape Cod Brings Concerns And Visions Of ‘Jaws’

Cape Cod is the summer vacation spot for people all over the world, but the waters off the Massachusetts coast are also becoming a vacation spot for a bigger species, the great white shark. It is not as if the great white sharks are trolling the waters of Cape Cod beaches looking for humans as their food source, but what they are looking for has a silhouette very similar to a person swimming.

The droves of seals that make their way to this vacation spot along the New England coast are the food source the great white is hunting. With the gray seal population growing each year, more and more great whites make the Cape Cod waters their destination for easy pickings.

According to Yahoo News, there’s been an influx of great white sightings off the beaches of the Cape and these sightings have brought concerns for both the tourists and residents of the area. The gray seal population correlates with the increase of great white sharks to the area, reports Senior Fisheries Biologist Dr. Greg Skomal. They go hand and hand.

The seals show up and the sharks follow with the numbers of both populations rising. In 2014, 80 great white sharks were spotted and documented as sightings. Jump ahead to 2016 and the number of sightings was at 147, just a baker’s dozen short of doubling in numbers.

So far this season there’s been eight great white sightings. The fact that the great whites are making their way to Cape Cod in bigger numbers has the National Park Service getting proactive. Research collected by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, and the National Parks Service has been valuable when educating the public about these sharks. Skomal talked about the concerns of the great white shark population growing, he said,

“When you’ve got large numbers of sharks, the prey they feed on [seals] and people in the water, the potential of an interaction is there. You want the people to be aware of it and that’s really what our goal is. Skomal explained how they “collect the kinds of data to inform the towns so they can enhance public safety.”

Last November a shark attacking a seal was caught on camera. This was at the beach on High Head Road on Cape Cod. The video can be seen below.

The movie Jaws has been the first encounter with a great white shark for a lot of land lovers. Despite the film being decades old, each generation seems to find time to make it part of their movie viewing. The great white shark in that movie is a super predator with a grudge and while Jaws made for some spectacular movie viewing, this is not how a great white shark functions.

Sharks are after the seals, according to Skomal, if they see a swimmer above them in the water, that silhouette resembles a seal and the shark may take a “test bite” of the swimmer. This is how a shark attack may occur. While shark attacks are on the rise, they are still a rare occurrence.

The Daily Beast published an article a few years ago when the great white shark population was just starting to boom. They reminded their readers that the movie Jaws was filmed off the coast of Cape Cod on Martha’s Vineyard, but that was back in 1975 when a great white shark was hard to find. Today it seems as if life is imitating art with the influx of great whites making their way to the area.

While the great white shark sightings might make folks think twice before taking a swim, the predators have become somewhat of a celebrity. People are coming to Cape Cod with the hopes of getting a gander at one of these Jaws-like creatures. The shops in the small towns that make up Cape Cod are selling everything and anything with a great white shark logo on it and it’s been over four decades since the movie Jaws first hit the silver screen.

For Cape Cod residents and visitors to the area, the National Parks Department has a page instructing on shark safety. It explains what to do if you spot a shark whether there is a lifeguard in the area or not. They have also developed an app to report these sightings.

Check out these horrifying shark attacks below from all over the world on the video below.

[Featured Image by Schalk van Zuydam/AP Images]