We live in Rhode Island, but we also love spending the day on Cape Cod. An interesting development on the Cape over the past few years is the presence of Atlantic White sharks, aka Great White sharks, apex predators of the sea.
The story goes like this: Gray seals, once numerous in the waters off Monomoy Point in Chatham, were hunted almost to extinction. Then the feds passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act, people stopped hunting them, and the population rebounded.
Now, the burgeoning seal population is being somewhat regulated – not by humans, (who almost always mess up whatever wildlife situation they try to “manage,”) but by White sharks.
But of course, folks are still complaining. Fishermen say the seals are eating too many fish, and some people are demanding that humans cull the seal herd, so fewer sharks will be attracted to the Cape. Either way, it sucks to be a gray seal these days.
In the meantime, the Town of Chatham has wisely capitalized on people’s fascination with White sharks. The non profit group, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, has an excellent facility in Chatham where people can learn more about White sharks and their role in the ecosystem, see some amazing aerial photos taken by shark spotter Wayne Davis, buy some cool T-shirts to take home – and stick their heads in a shark’s mouth, just to see how it might feel…..
Also in town, in addition to the shark-themed merch available in many stores, the Chatham Merchants’ Association organizes an annual art installation called “Sharks in the Park” featuring decorated and painted sharks which are auctioned off online.
So I guess my point is, the sharks are making it dangerous to swim in some places, but the entire area has benefitted in other ways from their presence, and they’re eating some of those seals that everyone is complaining about. It’s interesting to watch this unfold and see how people adapt to and even profit from the sharks.
Here’s the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy website: http://www.atlanticwhiteshark.org/#welcome