An Early Start to Shark Season on Cape Cod?

May is very early for the first great white shark sighting off Cape Cod.

But according to the Cape Cod Times, Greg Skomal, a senior scientist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the state's top shark expert, is reviewing a video captured by a park ranger on Saturday of what could be a great white shark about 60 feet off shore of Wellfleet's Marconi Beach.

In recent years, great white sharks haven't been spotted off the Cape until the second week of June. But the last two years have seen more than the usual number of great whites off the Cape.

Researchers using a plane and boats spotted 147 individual white sharks last summer. That was up slightly from 2015, but significantly more than the 80 individual sharks spotted in 2014, the first year of the study, funded by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

Great white sharks come to Cape Cod waters to feast on seals. Once hunted to near extinction, the now-protected seals are found in great numbers. The seals used to be concentrated at the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, off limits to humans, but as they have moved farther north, so have the sharks.

The risk of a swimmer being attacked by a shark is minimal. The last documented fatal great white shark attack in Massachusetts waters was in 1936. In 2012, a man bitten while swimming off Truro required 47 stitches and surgery to repair damaged tendons. In 2014, two young women kayaking off Plymouth were attacked, although neither was bitten.

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