In a turn of events that seemingly can’t help but make everyone think of Jaws, beaches on Cape Cod’s eastern shore are closed to swimming this weekend due to sightings of white sharks offshore. The Cape Cod Times reports that several 8-10 foot sharks have been spotted swimming near Lighthouse Beach in Chatham. To everyone’s credit, at least from what I have read and seen, there doesn’t seem to be much local panic (the national news media is a different story…) but beach officials have raised the red no-swimming flags anyway to be safe.
The shark guy on the scene, Gregory Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, is not taking the Jaws route, however. Instead of hunting down the sharks vigilante style with a grudge-bearing old crank and a city-boy police chief in an unsafe boat, he has managed to place satellite tags on two of them. These were only the second and third white sharks to be successfully tagged in the Atlantic Ocean, a fact which I was surprised to learn. Projects like TOPP (including a couple of my former professors, TA’s and classmates from Hopkins Marine Station and Stanford) have been tagging sharks, including great whites, in the Pacific for a while now. You can see follow the wanderings of these animals in real time on their website.
I was risking the shark-roiled waters of southern New England myself yesterday, spending the afternoon at Horseneck Beach on Buzzards Bay. The water was warm, the sun was out, and the largest animals in evidence outside of Homo sapiens and Larus smithsonianus were a solitary isopod and a few small tunicates hanging on to some eelgrass in the surf.