Growing white-shark congregation off Cape Cod has resulted in its first fatal attack since 1936 (1 Viewer)

superchuck500

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This is a fascinating (and tragic) development - but for the past 10 years or so, white sharks have been showing up at Cape Cod. Biologists attribute the sharks to the growing seal population there that began to thrive in the late 90s and early 2000s . . . with the sharks coming a few years later. Biologists believe that many generations of sharks hunted there but when the seals were decimated by over hunting in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the sharks left. In the 1970s, the US Marine Mammal Protection Act made seals a protected animal and their numbers slowly grew to what are now quite large populations.

Prior to the recent attack, the area had gone more than 85 years without a deadly shark encounter. Given that Cape Cod is a popular beach destination in the summer, this mix of seals, sharks, and people has concerned some observers that a shark attack on a human was almost certain to follow. Down in the southeast, we have grown somewhat used to stories of bull shark attacks in the surf of the Gulf of Mexico and lower Atlantic beaches. Any shark attack is terrifying, but most bull shark attacks are survived by the victim . . . great whites is another matter entirely.

I saw a show about this maybe a year or two ago, and the numbers were amazing. With each passing year, more and more white sharks were in the area - from 20 to 40, to 75 - 100, to well north of 100 sharks. And on that trajectory, the numbers were only going to get bigger. It's as if they went around telling each other about the seal populations.


A man was killed by a shark off Cape Cod over the weekend in the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936.

The man, Arthur Medici, 26, of Revere, Mass., was attacked at Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet on Saturday, according to the National Park Service. He was pulled out of the water and taken to Cape Cod Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.

Officials were investigating the attack, but they suspect that Mr. Medici was killed by a great white shark.
Fatal Shark Attack Off Cape Cod Is First in Massachusetts Since 1936


Decades ago, however, no one ever saw sharks in Cape Cod, New England's legendary hooked-shaped summer destination. No one even thought about them.

"Zero. No concern. We never worried about sharks," said Dockray. "Sharks were something that happened in Australia."

Yet today, it's not just sharks that have returned to Cape Cod. It's a greater return of the ocean and coastal wilderness: What it was like centuries ago, before salty mariners arrived in droves to fish the plentiful seas; before the Pilgrims first stepped foot onto the cape, en route to establishing a colony at Plymouth.

Sharks hunt seals, but seal populations were mostly exterminated from New England waters around 150 years ago, Sean Hayes, chief of the protected species branch of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, said in an interview. But, after being protected by the landmark Marine Mammal Protection Act nearly half a century ago, the seals are back, and growing their numbers.

The sharks, also protected under U.S. law, have followed.

"From strictly a conservation goal of trying to recover these wild animals and upper-level predators, it's been incredibly successful," said Hayes.

A truer wilderness, then, has largely returned to the shores of Cape Cod, well beyond just sharks and seals. In some areas, clouds of fish dart frantically beneath the surface as humpback whales open their jacuzzi-sized mouths and engulf them.

But today, there's another dominant species in the water.

"We never worried about sharks."

"Now, you’ve got a new player — and that new player is human beings," Greg Skomal, a senior scientist at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, who has researched white sharks for three decades, said. "Sharks are trying to hunt seals, and now people are in the mix."

For locals, the change is palpable.

"We live in a part of the country where, up until now, there was nothing that was going to kill you," said Dennis Minsky, a Cape Cod naturalist who spends his summer out at sea educating the public about whales, and anything else dwelling in the water.

But before the sharks came the gray seals. They're everywhere now, and they promise to attract more predators.
Why great white sharks have returned to Cape Cod
 

AARPSaint

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Maine experiences it’s first known fatal shark attack - great white likely mistook swimmer in wetsuit for a seal.

No surprise there. Maine has a lot of seals. There's a whole island near Acadia National Park that's covered with them.
 

sfidc3

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It is tragic, I feel terrible for that poor woman. But most rational folks realize that once you swim, surf, or otherwise go into the ocean, you are in their world....

And what is up with the "it's still out there" line, kind of ridiculous really....
 

buzd

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I know this is an older thread, but having been to Cape Cod a few times over the last few years, I downloaded the "Sharktivity" app, and I still get fairly frequent alerts when there is a great white up there (most of them are tagged, and they have radio stations that will ping them). We went fishing one day, and not only were there a couple of seals in the harbor, but the Cousteau research vessel was within view of where we were fishing.
 

Goatman Saint

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Since the Governator created the big marine area off California to protect the kelp beds, which has since expanded and Mexico continued down Baja our numbers have increased dramatically here also. But that’s a good thing all considered as it means all the populations are coming back into line. More food-more sharks. With the drones and such monitoring now, they are kept track of pretty well. We’ve come a long way since someone getting eaten was the first sign of a shark.
 

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