Great white shark sightings have led to the closure of three beaches in the Cape Cod area this week, the latest in a summer that has seen a pronounced increase in the number of sightings of the fearsome beasts.
"Shark Week" may be currently happening on The Discovery Channel, but in Massachusetts, it's Shark Week in the most literal possible sense. As WTBS-LD reports, this summer has seen a record number of shark taggings around Cape Cod. So bad is the problem that, for the third day in a row, some area beaches had to be closed.
Specifically, according to a companion WTBS report, a state police helicopter spotted a shark a few hundred yards offshore, not far from where swimmers would have been, off Longnook Beach in Truro. In the days prior, shark attacks had closed Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet and at South Beach in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard. Prior to that, a shark was believed to have been seen at Goose Rocks Beach in nearby Kennebunkport, Maine.
This brings the number of shark sightings in Cape Cod alone to over 150 this summer, according to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's Sharktivity app. However, it bears noting that that data is user-generated, and thus not official scientific data.So bad is the problem that Cape Cod's county, Barnstable County, has officially declared August "Seal and Shark Awareness Month." The legislation is merely ceremonial and doesn't invoke any action, but Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty said in a statement that it should get the public's attention.
"I believe that this measure will help to facilitate public safety via a regional approach, which is essential because the situation involving the sharks and seals concerns all of Cape Cod, not just one segment of it," he said.
You may be asking, what do seals have to do with this? The population of seals around Cape Cod has been on the increase in recent years. And in much the same way that when a restaurant re-stocks the buffet offerings and brings hungry customers back up to the buffet line, an increase in the seal population brings an increase in the number of hungry sharks.
Though shark attacks make for attention-grabbing headlines, they're actually extremely rare, according to The Wildlife Museum. The odds of being killed by a shark are actually one in 3,748,067; you are much more likely to die from being struck by lightning or in a fireworks mishap than you are of being attacked and killed by a shark.