CAPE COD, Mass. — Some fin is in the water in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Locals are bracing for an influx of tourists to flock to Cape Cod for the Fourth of July weekend, and they may have a few extra visitors joining them in the water.
In the past week, researchers have tagged 12 great white sharks near Cape Cod Bay. While sharks have always been a part of the waters near Cape Cod’s marine environment, researchers have seen their numbers grow over the years.
White sharks were designated as a protected species in federal waters beginning in 1997, and Massachusetts designated them as a protected species in state waters beginning in 2005. Combine the protected status of sharks along with the growing seal population and it was only a matter of time before their numbers grew.
In the 1880s, there was a bounty program that led to the near extinction of the seal population in the area, but that program ended in the late 1960s. After the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which protects marine animals, was enacted in 1972, the seal population exploded after gray seals recolonized in the area.
And wherever seals are, sharks naturally follow.
Last September, Massachusetts suffered its first shark fatality in over 80 years when 26-year-old Arthur Medici was killed while boogie boarding off Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.
According to the Florida Museum’s 2018 International Shark Attack File, there were 130 incidents of shark-human interactions last year. Of those 130 incidents, 66 were confirmed to be unprovoked shark attacks with four total fatalities. The odds of being killed by a shark is 1 in 3,748,067, and there is a higher risk of being killed by fireworks, lightning, stroke or heart disease.
Even so, beachgoers must be cautious when entering the waters in Cape Cod Bay.
In order to protect beachgoers, more landlines have been added to combat poor cell service. There are also shark warning signs and beachside emergency boxes that contain a tourniquet, eye protection, gloves and trauma dressings.