It's shark season, and not just on television. With summer beach season in full swing, Cape Cod National Seashore officials are offering guidelines on how to avoid great white sharks that follow grey seals to the cape's waters.
"Recently, Cape Cod's great white sharks and grey seals have gained local and national attention. Both species existed long before Cape Cod was settled or became a popular destination, and in recent years their numbers have increased," notes Cape Cod Superintendent George Price.
That said, the sharks are necessary to maintain a "healthy and balanced marine ecosystem," the superintendent adds in a release.
With growing populations of seals off the cape's waters, there are increasing numbers of great white sharks coming to prey on them.
"In recent years there have been confirmed reports of great white sharks feeding on seals close to shore, as well as great white shark sightings from spotter planes flying along the Outer Cape and near swimming beaches," Superintendent Price notes. "While it is rare for a great white shark to bite a human, it did occur in Truro in 2012."
With that said, the seashore offers the following guidelines for avoiding great whites, and dealing with wildlife in general:
* Do not swim near seals.
* Swim close to shore, where your feet can touch the bottom.
* Swim, paddle, kayak, and surf in groups.
* Do not swim alone in the ocean at dawn or dusk.
* Avoid isolation.
* Limit splashing and do not wear shiny jewelry.
* Keep your distance (at least 150 feet) from seals, whether they are resting on land or are in the water. It is against the law to disturb them.
* Adhere to all signage at beaches where seals are resting.
* Keep pets leashed. Inquisitive dogs can startle resting seals, resulting in seal bites or scratches to you or your pet.
* Follow instructions of lifeguards.
* Become familiar with the beach flag warning system.
* Take time to read signage at the beaches.
The national seashore, the towns of Cape Cod and the Islands, the Massachusetts Shark Research Program, and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy have worked together to produce shark advisory signs for beaches, and brochures that provide education and safety tips for beach users.