As environmental regulations boost seal populations in New England – great whites return as well

This week, several great white sharks were spotted off the coast of Chatham, Mass., and two more near Cape Cod were swimming just 30 feet from the shore. One of the sharks was measured at 12 to 15 feet.

The summer months induce a chain reaction for shark sightings: Warm ocean temperatures entice more gray seals to the New England shores, and with more seals come more sharks.

The sharks have been paying more attention to New England the past few years because of the larger concentrations of gray seals, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Researcher Greg Skomal said. The gray seal population off Cape Cod has grown from 10,000 to over 300,000 ever since environmental regulations were put in place to protect the seals.

The United States averages 16 shark attacks each year, with only one fatality every two years. According to the International Shark Attack File, you have a higher chance of being struck by lightning, which kills about 41 people a year.

Zimmerman said there hasn’t been a confirmed shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936.


More on thisGreat White Sharks Return to Massachusetts Shores



A startled herd of gray seals on South Beach in Chatham, Massachusetts. Look closely and you’ll spot evidence of shark predation: a seal bitten in half. “You feel really sad for the animal with such a terrible injury,” says Greg Skomal, “but you also feel really excited. I remember thinking ‘wow, there’s a big shark nearby, one that had to be at least 11-foot long to hit a seal.” (Discovery)

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