*******************UPDATE, August 06, 2007 : Its happened AGAIN!*************************
On July 18, a Chatham resident and several beachgoers got a big suprise.
From “Cape Cod Online”:
On Lighthouse Beach, witnesses said they saw a 15-foot great white spring from the water and devour a seal swimming about 50 feet off shore. Officials could not confirm that a shark had entered shallow waters.
But for a handful of people who saw the attack, about 1½ miles from the lighthouse, there was no doubt.
”Somebody screamed, ‘Shark!”’ said E.J. Corb, 15, of Chatham, who works at Chatham Beach Company surf shop. ”I saw the fin and the back tail. And it just took down the seal.
”Three minutes later, the seal carcass just popped up again.”
”We all know they are in the water there,” Corb added. ”But we don’t expect it to come that close.”
Coast Guard officials said they heard the great white reports, but they were unable to confirm them.
”We’ve had sightings before,” said Petty Officer Brent Beebe, who is stationed at the Coast Guard Chatham station. ”Is it common? Well, they’re out there. But it’s not an everyday thing.”
Lee Tallman, the assistant harbormaster in Chatham, said town boats were looking for the animal. But by early evening, there were no confirmed sightings.
What brought a shark the size of a Ford Windstar van a mere two school bus-lengths away from shore on a public beach?
A seal. And guess what? There’s TONS of seals now.
According to TownOnline.com, some locals are complaining that the burgeoning pinniped population is becoming a nuisance, even depleting fish stocks.
“There is a growing concern about the seal population,” said Paul Bremser, a Chatham resident who observed a great white shark attack and eat a seal off Lighthouse Beach July 18. Bremser was giving a surfing lesson at the time.”
Personally, The Hairy Beast is not overly concerned with fish stocks. But he wonders if more yummy, yummy seals swimming close to the beach also means more white sharks swimming after them, also close to the beach.
Once hunted to the verge of extinction for their luxuriant fur, seals have enjoyed protection under the Marine Mammals Protection Act of 1972. Since then seal populations have risen steadily. On the west coast they are considered pests.
Post-Jaws hysteria took a toll on the great white shark; all through the 1970’s and 80’s fishermen targeted them for the thrill of hauling in a huge “Maneater”. Populations crashed. South Africa declared white sharks a protected species in the 1990’s and since then white shark populations are up. So are attacks. The same goes for Australia.
Great whites are currently protected in Massachusetts under Fish & Game regulations as a catch-and-release species (if you bag one The Hairy Beast suggests you just cut the line). However, this shark is much more elusive in the Atlantic than in other parts of the world, so it is difficult to estimate how many there are. One thing we know for sure though – as do a handful of beachgoers in Chatham – they are out there.
And they LOVE to eat seals.