Great White Shark sightings on Cape Cod – Here are the Facts:
A very small percentage of Cape Cod’s 559.6 miles of shoreline are affected (that translates to a mere .0017857 of our coastline)
The three beaches that are currently closed to swimming are all Ocean-facing beaches in Chatham, and they are: North Beach, North Beach Island and South Beach
North Beach and North Beach Island are only accessible only by boat or by off-road vehicle, and South Beach is a remote, rural beach.
Another East-facing beach, Lighthouse Beach in Chatham, remains open for daytime swimming, while lifeguards are on duty. (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
There are other, lovely, family-friendly beaches in Chatham and all are open! Several in Pleasant Bay are great for swimming, as well as all of the beaches along the Nantucket Sound side of Chatham, including the largest, Harding’s Beach, with nice, warm water. No Great White sharks have ever been spotted in the Sound or in Pleasant Bay.
Sharks have always been off the coast of Cape Cod, as it is within their normal migratory patterns, but the increased seal population (a result of their protected status under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act) off of the coast of Chatham’s Monomoy Island has led to more frequent sightings.
Monomoy is an 8-mile long spit of sand extends southwest from the Chatham mainland and is home to the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.
The eastern coast of Monomoy is a known seal hunting ground for the white shark. When feeding they are less likely to distinguish human activity from that of their principal prey; therefore any commotion in the vicinity of their prey could provoke an attack – hence the swimming restrictions.
We are fortunate to have the Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries and senior shark biologist Dr. Greg Skomal working on a white shark tagging program in the area, which is very exciting. The Division of Marine Fisheries released this map of shark sightings and tagging locations.