White Sharks Now Interacting With People at Cape Cod

I suppose it was only a matter of time.  I’ve waited until more information was available before writing anything about this, but it looks like the first confirmed Massachusetts white shark attack since 1936 has occurred at Ballston Beach on Cape Cod.  The victim, Christopher Myers, was swimming out past the breakers with his son when a dark dorsal fin was spotted near him and a shark seized his leg.  Fortunately, Chris’ injuries were relatively minor and he is apparently in good health and spirits.  Now that this has happened, what’s next for New England’s white sharks and the swimmers that share the water?

Cape Cod’s sharks have been getting a fair amount of recent press even before this attack.  This resurgent population got its own Shark Week special last year, then earlier this summer a dorsal fin was spotted following a kayaker near the local shark hot spot of Nauset Beach.  Next came the announcement that the Shark Wranglers would be paying a visit to Cape Cod, and now this attack.  It looks like interactions between New England’s great whites and people are heating up.

The sharks of Cape Cod seem to be getting a lot less shy around people. Image from boston.com.

Fortunately, the residents and tourists of Cape Cod seem to be taking this all in stride, and are even enjoying the increased economic activity as people flock to the beach not necessarily to swim, but to catch a glimpse of the sharks.  From a public safety standpoint, Cape Cod beaches are posting extra lifeguards and training them in shark identification, which is a much more reasonable reaction than other areas that have seen an increase in shark attacks.

As far as great white attacks go, this was hardly a scene out of Jaws, and the circumstances read like a textbook example of what not to do to avoid getting bitten.  Chris and his son were relatively alone out in deep water, and seals had been spotted nearby.  This is no disrespect to Chris, and we can probably expect to see a couple more bites and near-misses as Cape Cod beachgoers get used to the sharks being part of the landscape.  It’s been a long time since New England has had a healthy population of white sharks, and shark-avoidance behavior hasn’t been ingrained in the psyche of the local surfers and swimmers like it has in areas like California and Florida.

Right now Massachusetts seems to erring on the side of caution with how it deals with the sharks.  Despite this attack and other recent scares, currently the great whites are actually good for the Cape.  Hopefully things stay calm and locals and tourists alike continue to enjoy the wicked cool shahks.

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