Chatham Sharks
Chatham Shark Sightings Now
A Tourist Attraction

Chatham Shark
Shark Spotted Off Chatham MA
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Shark mania has returned to Chatham at the height of the vacation season, two summers after great whites began reappearing in local waters, drawn by the resurgent gray seal population. Gray seals have a lot of blubber and meat, so they are a high efficiency preferred menu item of great white sharks. Great whites are the largest predatory fish on Earth. A Stanford University study said that great white sharks are now more rare than Bengal tigers.

Sharks are nothing new off Cape Cod, where they summer along with thousands of New Englanders. Massachusetts has recorded only four shark attacks since 1670, two of which were fatal. The last fatal shark attack in Massachusetts took place way back in 1936.

Chatham MA Shark
Shark Eating a Seal in 2007 at North Beach
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Shark sightings so far this summer have topped 35, about the same as the number of sightings reported at this time last summer. But the number of sightings is not a reliable indicator of the number of sharks in the area, since the same shark may be spotted multiple times. These denizens of the deep have become another Cape Cod tourist attraction, with visitors and locals alike lining up for a glimpse of a Great White or two.

As a result, authorities in Chatham have banned swimming on east-facing oceanside beaches after more reports of great white sharks in the vicinity, including sightings of a shark killing a seal close to the beach. The closures include North Beach, North Beach Island, and South Beach during the hours of 5 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. The town harbormaster's office said in a statement issued Monday afternoon. Swimming is unaffected on the south side beaches in Nantucket Sound and in all other areas

Swimming at Lighthouse Beach is still banned from 5 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. daily and swimming remains banned when seals -- a favorite food of the fearsome great whites -- are within 300 feet, said. Chatham Parks and Recreation Director Dan Tobin. Lighthouse Beach, a popular destination, remains open during the day because staff are able to patrol the water during those hours. Beach goers, mariners and swimmers should continue to pay close attention to their surroundings, and when swimming at Lighthouse Beach should not venture too far from shore

Chatham MA Shark Tagging
Chatham Shark Tagging
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"This updated closure is based on credible sightings over the weekend of shark activity close to the shoreline near the south end of North Beach," Tobin said, "visitors to North Beach Island and harbormaster staff had seen a great white shark attack and kill a seal close to shore."

If we're seeing a real frequency of sharks in the locations where people are swimming, then we won't take a chance,'' said Tobin. Although seals are known to bite humans who get too close, the real danger is that a shark looking for prey will mistake a human for a seal and attack, said Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for New England Aquarium.

The seals around Cape Cod, which have recovered in recent years almost to the historic population levels that once existed here, are drawing the sharks in, said Gregory Skomal, a state marine biologist. The increased shark activity has made Skomal a Discovery Channel Star. This month his tracking of 5 Atlantic great whites in 2010 was documented in "Jaws Comes Home" an hour-long special that kicked off the Discovery Channel's wildly popular weeklong series of shark-centric programming

According to Skomal, "before the Cape's seal population spiked, great white sharks in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean may have survived on whale carcasses or a robust seal colony on Sable Island southeast of Nova Scotia. While younger sharks may feed on fish, dolphins or smaller sharks, as they get older and bigger the sharks go through a dietary shift toward larger prey like seals."

Chatham JAWS
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Despite what Steven Spielberg's 1975 film "Jaws" would lead you to believe, great white sharks do not target humans as prey. In fact, the only downside of the shark tourism phenomenon is that it illustrates a fundamental problem with the premise of the movie "Jaws," in which the mayor of a small town doesn't want to admit there is a man-eater in the water for fear of scaring away summer crowds.

Roy Schneider could have apparently saved a lot of energy if he'd just known more about marketing.

The granddaughter and son of legendary Jacques Cousteau, Celine and Jean-Michael Cousteau are teaming up with the digital production company Mammalfish Inc. of Brooklyn, N.Y., to create the documentary tentatively called "The White Sharks of Chatham." The project's mission is to raise awareness of the "incredible ecosystem" and the phenomenon of the sharks as part of that circle of life. Look for it on PBS's NOVA.

Since great white sharks live in waters with temperatures between 12 °C (54 °F) and 24 °C (75 °F), this means that the sharks will be here even after most of the tourists go home in early September. Hotel, rental prices and practically everything else are lower too so it is a great time to visit.

Chatham Top Great White Facts

Hottest Chatham Shark Stuff

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