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Shark Sightings, Encounters off Cape Cod Up in 2018

This month brought the first attack on a human since 2012
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 31, 2018 5:40 PM CDT
Sharks swim close to shore off Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham, Mass.   (Wayne Davis/Atlantic White Shark Conservancy via AP)
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(Newser) – As another beach season draws to a close on Cape Cod, researchers are trying to figure out what's driving the increase in shark sightings and encounters—including Massachusetts' first attack on a human since 2012. One prominent researcher suggests the presence of younger and smaller great white sharks this summer could be playing a role, the AP reports. Greg Skomal, a state marine biologist leading a five-year study wrapping up this year, says his team spotted 149 great whites off Cape Cod in July, more than double the 74 observed last July. He said somewhat smaller great whites—measuring about 8 to 10 feet—appeared to make up a greater number of the sharks observed.

Skomal suggested younger sharks could be contributing to the encounters, particularly those involving sharks snatching fish off anglers' hooks. Smaller sharks, he said, tend to prefer large fish like striped bass prized by recreational fishermen, while larger adult sharks typically hunt seals. Climate change and the warming of the Cape's waters sooner than usual could be another factor, another expert tells the AP. Officials say they've had to close beaches more frequently this year because of shark sightings. Local officials have also been stepping up public education efforts, but fear many beachgoers still aren't heeding the warnings. The heightened concern comes after a 61-year-old New York resident escaped a shark attack off Truro, Massachusetts with severe injuries to his leg and arm earlier this month.

(Read more Cape Cod stories.)

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