‘They’re absolutely here’: Cape Cod officials warn of white sharks ahead of July Fourth

CHATHAM, Mass. (AP/WHDH) — Cape Cod’s beaches and towns may be quieter because of the coronavirus pandemic, but officials are reminding visitors ahead of the July Fourth holiday that the famous Massachusetts destination remains a popular getaway for other summertime travelers: great white sharks.

Cape Cod National Seashore Chief Ranger Leslie Reynolds warned at a news conference that the powerful predators are coming close enough to shore to be a concern for swimmers.

“If you thought that COVID-19 would keep sharks away, think again,” added Gregory Skomal, a prominent shark scientist with the state Division of Marine Fisheries. “They’re absolutely here.”

Officials in Orleans also have documented at least two shark attacks on seals in recent days, the Cape Cod Times reports.

“If you’re swimming on the outer Cape, there are seals around you, and there is deep water around you, then there could be a shark hunting,” Skomal said. “Don’t think it terms of distance from sure. Think in terms of water depth.”

Skomal says he tagged three great whites circling a whale carcass earlier this month as his research team began its work for the season.

The peninsula southeast of Boston saw two shark attacks on humans in 2018, one of them fatal. Officials have recommended swimmers remain in waist deep water where possible and avoid areas where sharks have been previously spotted as they weigh a range of responses to protect beachgoers and preserve the region’s tourist economy.

“The probability of being bitten is really low. I think the probability of getting COVID-19 is much higher,” Skomal said. “But these sharks do make mistakes. It’s rare but they do.”

Great whites have been coming to the Cape in greater numbers each summer to prey on the region’s large seal colonies. Most tend to favor the Atlantic Ocean-facing beaches where seals tend to congregate, but researchers have found them off nearly every part of the Cape.

Local residents concerned about the booming shark population, meanwhile, say they’ll boost their efforts to help protect swimmers this summer.

More pilots have volunteered to radio in shark sightings as they fly over the peninsula, said Heather Doyle, co-founder of Cape Cod Ocean Community, a local group that advocates for white shark surveillance and detection measures.

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, a Chatham-based research group, is also offering its Sharktivity smartphone app, which allows users to report and track shark sightings.

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