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It's a Busy Summer for Shark Sightings at Cape Cod Beaches

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries / Atlantic White Shark Conservancy
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy research team recently got video footage of white shark "Danny" off of Cape Cod.

Frequent shark sightings this summer along the Atlantic coast of Cape Cod haven’t deterred people from heading to the seashore.


“The beaches have been quite, quite busy, and the sharks in August are always busy,” said Ann Morton, who works in the beach sticker office in Wellfleet.


People have been eager to get out of the house amid the pandemic, she said, and they’ve gotten used to the idea that great whites aren’t far offshore.


“I think that people have just accepted the fact that they’re out there,” she said.


At least anecdotally, the number of white sharks spotted off the Cape is increasing, according to shark scientist Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.


Skomal told WCAI’s Mindy Todd on The Point this week that COVID-19 delayed the summer research season. Scientists had to wait for guidelines about working on the water, and some of the equipment they ordered was delayed.


“So we really didn’t start ramping up until July, but we’re up and running, and things are going well,” he said.


State researchers are working to learn more about great white sharks’ movement and behavior to protect public safety.


In the next few months, one of his colleagues expects to finish an analysis of how shark numbers have changed over the last five years, Skomal said.


In Wellfleet, Morton said that if a shark is sighted or detected by a buoy, lifeguards pull people out of the water for an hour.


Someone asked her recently if the beaches close altogether when a shark is spotted. It reminded her of the “Land Shark” character on Saturday Night Live, she said with a laugh — but people are perfectly safe on the sand.