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Everything You Need to Know About Cape Cod Shark Attacks in 2024

Shark populations along the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts have seemingly skyrocketed in the past 20 years.

What used to be an idyllic peninsula for all sorts of water activities like swimming, tubing, and surfing has recently been covered in signs, warning beachgoers about the dangerous inhabitants. 

How Many Shark Attacks Happen in Cape Cod?

The precautions do appear to be effective though, as there have only been a handful of attacks on Cape Cod in the last two decades.

The most recent took place in 2018, one of which was fatal, marking the first time in almost 80 years a local attack took someone’s life.  

What Kind of Sharks Live/Migrate in Cape Cod?

There are a few types of sharks that live in Cape Cod, but the most worrisome are great whites.

As the most dangerous kind of their species, these sharks can measure up to 13 feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds.

The fastest can swim 35 miles an hour in short bursts, and feed on fish, invertebrates, and other marine mammals – like seals.

Other sharks in the Cape include basking sharks, brown sharks, and sand tiger sharks.  

What Months Are Sharks Most Active in Cape Cod?

The ‘locals’ are the most active in Cape Cod over the summer, normally migrating to Massachusetts sometime in May and heading back down towards the Gulf of Mexico by the end of October.

They return each year to hunt the seal population that grows rapidly during the winter, a relatively new annual occurrence. 

The first reported great white seen on Cape Cod wasn’t until 2004.

Up until the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which aimed to prevent certain sea mammals from falling out of their ecosystems, commercial fishers were responsible for regulating the presence of grey seals on the Cape’s beaches.

After the act was passed though, grey seals made an impressive comeback, attracting more and more great whites every year, beginning in the early 2000s.

In 2023, there were an estimated 800 sharks that made the journey North, and even more are expected in the next few months.   

How to Protect Yourself from a Shark Attack in Cape Cod

Aside from listening to lifeguards and paying close attention to the signs along the beach, there are other tactics Cape Cod natives and visitors can use to protect themselves from an attack.  

Stay in a Group

Sharks of any kind, not just great whites, are much more likely to go after prey they spot by themselves.

They’re smart enough to recognize there is no one around to alert the lone seal, fish, etc., and will be quick to make a beeline.

If you do decide to go in the water, take a friend or a few, and keep an eye out for one another. 

Remove Shiny Jewelry

Taking off anything that will reflect sunlight is essential for preventing attracting sharks.

This is because they can see the shimmer from super far away in the water, and it actually mimics the glistening skin of a bait fish – a favorite snack amongst most sharks. 

If You’re Bleeding, Forget It

There’s a scene in Finding Nemo where Bruce, a scary but friendly great white shark, gets a whiff of Dory’s blood after she is accidentally whacked with the strap of a snorkeling mask.

He immediately loses all self-control and goes on a wild rampage searching for Dory and Marlin, insistent he won’t be stopped until he eats them.

While non-Disney great whites don’t quite have that intense of a reaction to blood, they can smell it a quarter mile away, and will almost always want to find the source. 

Keep Your Pets Out of the Water

As cute as it is to see your dog splashing about in the ocean, their uncommon swimming movements – even the doggy paddle – are likely to catch a shark’s attention, since it’s not something they see very often.

And if prey seems unfamiliar to a great white, they’ll definitely want to give it a try. 

Don’t Go in After Sunset

Sharks are the most active during low-light hours, so being in the ocean once it gets dark isn’t a good idea.

Not only do you have a lower chance of being able to spot a shark, but they have a higher chance of mistaking you for a seal. 

What To Do If You Witness a Shark Attack in Cape Cod

While remaining calm in most emergency situations is a typical first step, creating panic will actually get people out of the water much quicker.

Keeping your wits about you is important though, as you’ll need to call 911 as soon as possible and alert a lifeguard so they can spread word of an attack through their walkie-talkie.  

Shark Attacks in Cape Cod

While all the shark signage along Cape Cod’s beaches can be daunting, avoiding attacks isn’t difficult.

Being aware of your surroundings, sticking together, and following lifeguards’ directions are all easy ways to stay safe and enjoy your beach day on the Cape. 

2 commentaires

melissa hanna
melissa hanna
7 days ago

When you enter water your in the Sharks playland. Choose wisely


09 mai

The seals have been protected for 52 years now, and are OVERPOPULATED. And they attracted 800 DANGEROUS SHARKS to our waters just last year.

800 is just the ones that were able to be counted.

Of course they can't count the MANY they don't see, so the numbers are MORE than 800.

The SHARKS have also been protected since 1972 and now they too have become OVERPOPULATED.

So NOW, we currently have large numbers of dangerous predatory sharks swimming around the ocean shore all summer, looking to FEED on whoever is also in the water.

It is time to prioritize PROTECTING the people.

It is time to take the shark numbers down---way down.

The laws must be updated to be…

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