CHATHAM, Mass. - Sharks have been a mysterious and scary ocean predator since long before humans started swimming in the ocean or watching movies like Jaws.
But a local non-profit organization has been working to learn more about them and to educate beach-goers on how to stay safe when swimming.
The latest data from a multiyear study of the ocean predators found the number of sharks in waters off the vacation haven appears to be on the rise, says Dr. Greg Skomal, a senior scientist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and the state's top shark expert.
But that's no reason to cancel vacation. The sharks are after seals, not humans, and towns are using the information from the study to keep it that way.
AWSC SHARK SAFETY VIDEO
Sharks are spending more time in Cape Cod waters because the seal population is booming. Researchers using a plane and boats spotted 147 individual white sharks last summer. That was up slightly from 2015, but significantly more than the 80 individual sharks spotted in 2014, the first year of the study, funded by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.
In years past, the Cape Cod National Seashore has issued the following tips for avoiding contact with potentially dangerous sharks:
- Swim close to shore, where their feet can touch bottom
- Swim in groups
- Avoid swimming alone at dawn or dusk
- Limit splashing
- Don’t wear shiny jewelry
- Don’t swim near seals, which are prey for sharks.
But while the only way to effectively avoid a shark attack is to stay on shore, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has launched an app called Sharktivity. It tracks sightings of sharks and monitors they’re behaviors. If you see a shark, you can report the sighting in the app and you can set the app to alert you if a shark is spotted in your area.
If you find yourself on the elbow of the Cape during summer, you can also spend a day learning about sharks at the Chatham Shark Center. It serves as the headquarters for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.
The Chatham Shark Center is open weekends only until July 1st:
- Saturday from 10AM - 4PM
- Sunday from 11AM - 4PM
- Sunday 11am- 4pm
- Monday 10am- 4pm
- Tuesday CLOSED
- Wednesday 10am- 4pm
- Thursday 10am- 4pm
- Friday 10am- 4pm
- Saturday 10am - 4pm
- $5 per person
- Kids 5 and under are free
- All military (active or retired) are free
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