Typically, sharks don't return to the waters off Cape Cod and the Islands until mid-June. But shark season got off to an early start this year, as about a dozen have already been spotted off the Massachusetts coast.
The first confirmed sighting was on Sunday, May 29. A great white shark was spotted near the Great Point Lighthouse on Nantucket. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's Twitter page shared a local's video of a white shark eating a seal just off the beach.
Since then, seven other shark sightings have been reported to the conservancy's Sharktivity app.
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Here's the full list:
- May 23: This sighting is listed on Sharktivity as "unconfirmed," so it's not an official one. But one person said they saw a shark at Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro.
- May 29: The aforementioned first official sighting of the season, a great white shark spotted feeding on a seal off Nantucket's Great Point Lighthouse.
- June 1: Four great white sharks were spotted around 5 p.m. off Nantucket. The reporting party said one of them was much larger than the rest -- about 15 feet long -- and was located about half a mile south of the others, all by itself. It had a large piece of its tail missing.
- June 1: Three great white sharks were spotted off Tuckernuck Island in Nantucket feeding on a dead whale.
- June 5: A shark was spotted eating a seal off Nantucket.
- June 5: A single shark was spotted feeding off Chatham.
- June 5: This one's not technically a shark sighting, but a seal that appeared to have been fed on by a great white shark washed up on Philbin Beach on Martha's Vineyard. The reporting party said the seal carcass appeared to be about three to five days old.
- June 5: Also not truly a shark sighting, but a seal that appeared to have been attacked by a great white shark washed up on a beach near Chatham.
Shark season typically peaks in late summer and early fall in Massachusetts, and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is encouraging locals to share their shark sighting videos through their Sharktivity app this summer.
Listen to our free podcast, "Shark Tales," which explores the world of sharks in New England with our partners at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. It's on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
The New England Aquarium is working with the conservancy to analyze video gathered with the app, which allows people to send video of shark sightings to the experts, since many sightings reported to the app aren't white sharks.
There are a number things being done to keep beachgoers on the Cape safe, including urging them to not wade into outer waters over their waist. White sharks in the region spend about half their time in water that's under 15 feet deep, experts say.
Sharks flock to New England's waters following seals, which they eat. Purple flags warning of sharks in the area have become commonplace as lifeguards help beachgoers coexist with the predators, which rarely attack people.
The last deadly shark attack in New England was in Maine in July 2020. A man also died in a shark attack on Cape Cod in 2018, the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts in over 80 years.