Cape Cod Wrestles With An Increased Shark Population

The changes that come when a coastal community finds a threat in its waters

Great white shark
An increase in the great white shark population has had a significant effect on the people of Cape Cod.
Hermanus Backpackers/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / August 18, 2019 8:15 am

What happens when a region known for its gorgeous coastal settings suddenly finds itself dealing with wildlife who are anathema to those same coastlines? That’s exactly what’s happening in Cape Cod, where residents are coming to terms with a massive increase in the number of sharks dwelling in the surrounding waters.

A new article in The Wall Street Journal explores the ways in which the region has endeavored to make locals and visitors alike aware of the dangers these sharks present — and what local traditions have been altered so as not to put people at risk.

Beachgoers are greeted with new warning signs: “People have been seriously injured and killed by white sharks along this coastline.” Lifeguards have new first-aid kits with tourniquets to stanch bleeding and they fly purple shark-emblazoned warning flags full-time. An annual charity swim off Provincetown in September will reroute to be closer to shore for the first time. Several surf instructors have stopped offering lessons, and parents are ordering their children to stay in the shallows.

The article posits an increase in the region’s seal population as having led to the greater numbers of sharks in the waters near Cape Cod. A recent Newsweek article explores the shark/seal dynamic in greater detail, and also provides a useful reminder that shark attacks on humans are relatively rare.

There’s also an argument to be made that the region’s shark population may not have increased significantly from last year to this year. Whatever your take on the subject may be, it’s still best to get out of the ocean if you see a pointed fin emerging from the water.

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