No one wants to find themselves swimming in shark-infested waters, though oddly enough, according to researchers, one of the most popular beaches for great white sharks just so happens to be one of the most popular beaches for tourists too.
When you think of beaches with sharks, you often think of places like California, Mexico, South Africa, or Australia. However, a recent study has shown us that one of the most prominent seasonal gatherings of great whites takes place in Cape Cod, right off the coast of Massachusetts.
Some researchers say it might be the largest gathering on Earth, and that the overwhelming influx of great whites into the region also makes it one of the first shark hotspots in the North Atlantic.
What is strange is that this also seems to be new behavior. In the early 2010s, we began seeing an increase in the number of shark sightings in the area. Since 2012, there have been three shark attack instances, one of which was fatal. The slew of attacks was the catalyst for a four-year study to see what was bringing these big fish to the area.
At the time, conservation organizations, National Park officials, and Cape Cod residents wanted to know how big they could expect the shark population to get.
Researchers crunched the data and estimated that around 800 individual great whites visited the area between 2015 and 2018. This number did not even account for the total number of sharks around the North Atlantic, as the sample area was exclusively along the eastern shoreline at the peninsula.
As for whether or not the population of sharks is on the rise, it’s hard to tell. Some say that it might be the case that we just didn’t care to seek them out before, so we never knew they were there. On the other hand, the change in numbers could be indicative of evolving shark behavior, or that they have become more susceptible to relocating.
According to the Scientific American, however, shark populations are on the rise based on recent data.
Greg Skomal, a shark expert and senior fisheries biologist at the Division of Marine Fisheries in Massachusetts, notes that population estimates have increased over each year the study has gone on.
“With this unique trend, we know that the population of sharks is growing in Cape Cod, and can assume that it’s growing beyond that as well,” he said.
It’s also worth noting that experts have seen a growing population of gray seals in Cape Cod. During the early 1960s, these marine mammals were almost eradicated from the New England area, thanks to commercial fishing. However, when the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 was put into play, it became safe for these animals to come back to the area and repopulate.
By 2017, experts estimated that there were around 30,000 seals in the area.