Cape Cod is one of the world’s largest hotspots of great white sharks, study finds

New research has revealed that Cape Cod in Massachusetts is one of the largest areas of large white sharks. Between 2015 and the end of 2018, around 800- great white sharks visited the region in a study published on July 27th in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

The researchers claimed. This is the first estimate of the population size for the great white sharks ( Carcharodon carcharias) in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean. The findings “suggest that Cape Cod is among the larger aggregation sites worldwide,” the authors wrote.

Why are these apex predators swarming near the Cape Cod coasts? Because it’s where their preferred meals are, as research co-author Megan Winton explained.

“Over the course of the past 10 years, white sharks have come back to Cape Cod to feed on the recovering seal population,” Winton, a marine researcher who is a part of the non-profit organization Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, spoke to The Inertia.

Humans hunted harbor and gray seals until they were near extinct in the 1960s. However, their numbers have drastically grown since 1972, when the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act was adopted, which made it illegal to hunt dead marine mammals without approval. Now, there are roughly 30,000 to 50,000 gray and harbor seals in southeastern Massachusetts, according to a 2016 estimate. The study has revealed that the amount of sharks that are great white in the region has been increasing steadily.

To determine their number, The researchers identified specific sharks using the data from tags and recorded their distinct patterns of color using the underwater GoPro cameras. Following more than 130 trips to research in the span of three years have identified 393 great white sharks from the year 2015 through 2018.

But, they also were looking to understand the sharks’ migratory patterns, So they devised an algorithm to determine how many sharks moved into and out of the region. They estimated that approximately 800 sharks were aggregated in the area over three years.

In the 1980s, the population of great white sharks in the Atlantic Ocean was just 27 percent of the level in 1961. They have, however, made an impressive comeback in the Western North Atlantic coast in recent years, in the words of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The study confirms the trends are evident in Cape Cod.

“What I find most amazing is the speed at which the population recovered,” Chris Lowe, Director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, told the newspaper Outside.

Most great white sharks are spotted at Cape Cod during late summer and into early fall when ocean temperatures peak before moving out of the region in the early winter.

“Their movements are very d; they, they trickle in and out,” co-author of the study Greg Skomal, the manager of the recreational fisheries program within the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, reported to The Boston Herald. “Some white sharks simply stop by on their way north while others spend more time along the Cape, likely because they have success feeding on seals.”

Although Cape Cod is a hotspot for great white sharks, there hasn’t been any human-caused attack since 2018. The risk to recreational swimmers is still shallow, the researchers said in their study.

“They are very cautious predators,” Winton explained to New Hampshire Public Radio Station (NHPR ). “But the increased presence and number of white sharks off the Cape really drives home the need for ongoing research.”


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