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article imageLong, hot summer draws tourists, sharks to Cape Cod

By Martin Laine     Jul 29, 2010 in Environment
Record numbers of beachgoers have been flocking to Cape Cod this summer, seeking relief from an extended spell of hot weather. Warm water temperatures and the prospect of a meal have also attracted several Great White sharks.
But instead fleeing from the presence of a predator described as “nature’s most efficient killing machine” and “man-killer,” whose frightening presence was the basis of the book and movie “Jaws,” – filmed on Martha’s Vineyard – people are packing the beaches hoping for a glimpse of a Great White.
Great Whites are notoriously elusive, and little is known about them. Sightings have been rare, though steady, over the years. The last known fatality caused by a Great White in Massachusetts waters was in 1936.
Chatham Harbor is a “hot spot” for shark spotters. There’s been an explosion of the gray seal population there, and these are a favorite food of the Great Whites.
“They’re hungry, seal is their main diet, and they’re coming in to have a nice meal,” said Chatham’s marine operations supervisor James Horna.
Earlier this week, wildlife officials tagged one of the sharks less than 100 feet from shore. Last year, over Labor Day weekend, five beaches around Chatham were closed to swimming due to shark sightings. Great Whites have been known to grow up to 20 feet long, and weigh up to 4,000 lbs, or about the size of a compact car.
The excitement around the presence of the sharks has been a boon to Chatham businesses.
“It’s jam-packed,” said Lisa Franz, executive director of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce. “There’s lots of traffic and shopping coming in. We’ve experienced lots of people coming in asking about the shark sightings at our visitor’s center.”
No beaches have been closed as yet, but officials are advising swimmers to be cautious, and especially to stay away from seals.
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