Cape Cod Massachusetts: Too many seals and Great Whites, now!

*******************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, 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.



  1. dragonlady474
    Posted August 21, 2006 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    I swam a bit in the ocean this summer but I was paranoid as hell. I don’t think I’ll ever feel fully comfortable in the ocean after the movie Jaws.

    • Barry Schank
      Posted September 7, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Heard that,,,,,

  2. Posted August 21, 2006 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Sharks give me the creeps. I would say they can “bite me”, but…well…you know!

  3. Posted August 21, 2006 at 1:46 pm | Permalink


    It’s their ocean but it’s OUR beach.

  4. Posted August 21, 2006 at 1:52 pm | Permalink


    Yes, sharks are creepy and yes, sharks do bite. The question is – how likely are they to bite YOU?

    The answer is: not very.

    Still, even the chance of getting bit is enough to make The Hairy Beast’s hairs stand straight up.

  5. Jocko
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I have never seen a shark, but you should check out the whale in my pants……

    • tony
      Posted September 5, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      You mean minnow!

      • Alex
        Posted September 13, 2009 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        haha. thats so funny. yeah its very likely you’ve got a “whale” in your pants. have your mother check it. ok?

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 14, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      more like a shrimp!

  6. Posted August 8, 2007 at 8:06 pm | Permalink


    Wrong kind of hairy beast, Jocko. Kinda funny though.

  7. jigalow
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    ur mom’s a hairy beast

  8. jigalow
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    and boy do i love it

    • tony
      Posted September 5, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      At least his mom didnt give him up !!!

  9. Posted July 15, 2008 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I dont see any sharks at beachs

  10. Posted March 7, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    sharks are dengeros

    • Barry Schank
      Posted September 7, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Wow you are a smart one thanks for your advice…

  11. Becky
    Posted April 8, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I believe I have seen one shark in the wild in my life… Although if you check out the list of fatal and unprovoked shark attacks, it’s enough to keep you out of the water. People think im crazy and say your chances of getting bit by a shark are less likely than dying from a coconut or getting struck by lighting, but that just isn’t true. Your chances of DYING from a shark bite are less commen than coconuts or lighting.. not getting bit by one. Currently I live in Central Florida… we are the shark capital of the world.. people are getting bit ALL the time. Attacks are becoming more and more commen. I think that new $600 shark repellent should sell for much less.. that way the average person could afford it with no problem.. Maybe if that were cheaper, more people would have it and less attacks would occur. Now, I’m not afrad of many things, but sharks are something I will ALWAYS fear! If you are daring enough to go in the ocean, be safe about it!!

  12. Barry Schank
    Posted September 7, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I grew up in NJ and when my brother and sister would go swimming in the murkey waters on the coast we would often feel things rub up against us.It wasn’t a pleasant feeling cause you never new what it was cause you couldn’t see you feet.After the movie Jaws swimming in the ocean wasnt as fun anymore.You allways had that feeling in the corner of your mindthat there could be a great white right next to you.

  13. Barry Schank
    Posted September 7, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    And I think my Brother and sister felt the same way too.But it never kept us out of the water!!!!!!!

  14. surfer girl
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    Speaking as a surfer of 15 years, and a former New England native transplanted to California for the past 12 years…Marine mammals are protected in CA also. We have many more pinnipeds, GW sharks, and surfers. Occasionally, a surfer or swimmer gets attacked and even killed. As tragic as it may be, people tend not to overreact and declare war on the wildlife. After all, if you have the balls to recreate in the ocean, you also bear the burden of responsibility for your own safety. We surfers accept the inherent risk of entering waters populated by sharks and their prey. Despite the danger, many of us still advocate for the protection and conservation of all marine wildlife, including sharks.
    To tell you the truth, I feel safer surfing colder, sharky, GW prowled waters than I did surfing the truly shark infested waters of New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
    As for the fisherman out there complaining about seals stealing all of their fish. One could make the exact same argument against humans. There are definitely more than enough of them around, as well. And I know which species I’d prefer to impose population control upon.
    And not all commercial fisherman share this degrading attitude toward seals and their effect on fish populations. In Santa Cruz, Ca the famous commercial fishing company, Stagnaro Brothers have expanded their business to include eco-tourism.
    Their mission statement, which includes words such as “sustainable fishing” and “evolve” is as follows…

    Santa Cruz Whale Watching presents ‘Fishy’
    “As our roots in business have always revolved around Commercial and Sport Fishing, sustainable fishing is still a significant source of our livelihood. However, over the past five years Stagnaro’s Yachts has been evolving both physically and conceptually. The focus of our business is changing to eco-friendly tourism that promotes knowledge of our sensitive marine environment and provides access to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. ”

    Let the Stagnaro Brothers serve as an exemplary attitude toward marine conservation.

  15. kay
    Posted June 5, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi – I will be visiting the Cape area and am looking to do either a seal snorkel or dive. Any suggestions? Thanx Kay

  16. Lady Shirley
    Posted July 31, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    I agree with Dragonlady…it’s their ocean, but our beach. To put it simply, sharks were born in the water, we were not…they live it, we don’t. When in the water, we are in their territory & they definitely have the advantage. If you are in the water & you see a shark, try to swim quietly back to shore as possible and splash as little as possible. Simple, but effective. Otherwise, enjoy the view from the beach!

  17. Lady Shirley
    Posted July 31, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Leave the seals alone! They don’t go around pulling limbs off and killing people. True, they may eat alot of fish but that’s what they were born to do. Would you cull people because ther are too many fo them? I think not.

  18. Sean Paradis
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m a canadian that has been going to Cape Cod ever since I was an embryo. Sure the thought of Great Whites in the water stirs up some fears, but the oceans are their turf. They aren’t evil blood-thirsty monsters. They are beautiful animals like all others, except they have large pointy teeth. but that is not their fault, they were born that way. When I’ll be in the ocean I will be certain not to stray far from shore.

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2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Too Many Seals, Not Enough Sharks

    The growing seal population on the Cape will be an ever increasing problem into the future. As a former commercial fisherman, I can tell you that the local seal population has expanded rapidly over the last 10 years. When I was fishing, seeing a seal w…

  2. […] Starting around 2006-07, White Shark sightings have become more and more common, beginning in late July and peaking around early September. Last year five whites were tagged over the course of a few days, several in the surf line, just off the beach. Now it appears they’re headed back, according to the Boston Herald. At least one of the great white sharks that lingered in the waters off Chatham last summer appears headed back our way, reports the Cape Cod Times. […]

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