ORLEANS, Mass. – Dozens of sharks have been sighted in the shallow waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
More than 30 sightings were reported along the Cape last week, according to Sharktivity's application data from the Atlantic Great White Conservancy.
After biting three swimmers last month off the coast of North Carolina, swimmers stay in shallow waters, even if they dare to go. Another subject that preoccupies many Cape Cod residents: the death of a 26-year-old man last September, after a great attack of white sharks – the first fatal encounter of sharks in the region for more than 80 years.
"We are no longer swimming as before, as sharks are getting closer," said Deborah Molinari, who said she had been going to Cape Cod almost every summer since she was small.
Whole swallowed shark during rare sea food off the south coast of South Carolina, video clips
While the chances of being bitten by a shark are extremely slim, first responders along the beach are preparing for the worst because of the large sightings of whites.
"This problem has intensified over the last decade and we are adopting an aggressive attitude this year," said Anthony Pike, fire chief in Orleans, Massachusetts.
Orleans is one of the first coastal cities in the country to install heavy bleeding kits along the beach, as well as emergency call booths on secluded beaches where there may be no cellular service said Pike. In addition to bold new signage, enhanced security protocols and new communication towers, Mr. Pike said the island mentality was changing.
A mysterious shark of the sea older than the dinosaurs captured on film
"People are no longer incredulous about the potential danger," Pike said. "We are witnessing a cultural shift in Cape Cod to educate the public, stay close to the coast and swim responsibly."
The reason sharks get so close to the shore, says marine biologist Greg Skomal, is food.
"What is happening now is that we are maintaining this classic predator-prey relationship with sharks and seals," said Skomal. "The seals are near the shore, the sharks are moving near the shore to eat the seals, and then we have people in the mix."
Skomal and his team go out looking for sharks several times a week, tagging them with trackers to monitor their movements and study their behavior. Last week, they captured a remarkable interaction between two great whites by drone.
He added that the reason for the gray seal population explosion was their federal protection status granted by the 1972 Mammal Protection Act, which prohibited the killing of seals. They made a comeback in the decades that followed, to the delight of the great whites and for the sake of the man.
A great white shark surprises a fisherman during the real life moment "Jaws"
Even if the legal protection was removed, Skomal wondered if anything would change.
"How many seals can you possibly remove, what are you doing with them?" Said Skomal. "And with a population of half a million in the Northwest Atlantic, will it be effective?"
He added that the instinct of great white sharks is to hunt seals and that human attacks are very rare. Last year, out of 66 shark attacks in the world, only four were deadly.
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"The likelihood of being injured in your car is far greater than that of a shark," said Skomal, "but that does not prevent any of us from using our car every day ".