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Great White Shark in Cape Cod First Sighting of the Year

Jul 01, 2014 01:29 PM EDT
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A team of researchers spotted a great white shark Saturday about a quarter-mile off Nauset Beach in Orleans, the first sighting off the east coast of Cape Cod this year.

"She was incredible, very, very slowly moving across the water," Cynthia Wigren, president of the non-profit group Atlantic White Shark Conservatory (AWSC), responsible for the sighting, told The Boston Globe. "It was easy to stay with her."

The 14-foot-long female shark was seen by pilot Wayne Davis and was named Ping by Hillary Waterman, AWSC drawing winner. The sighting, which has been customary during the season, came two weeks ahead of schedule compared to last year's first encounter.

"This is common this time of year, as sharks start to move into the area to take advantage of the seal population," said Greg Skomal, a senior biologist with the Division of Marine Fisheries. Though, he assures beachgoers that sharks rarely attack humans and that sightings are nothing to get nervous about.

Researchers with the conservatory have just begun a three- to five-year study, in collaboration with the state's Division of Marine Fisheries, to determine the size of the local great white shark population and to see how many return from year to year. From June through mid-October they will scan the waters along the eastern coast of Cape Cod, between Truro and the southern tip of Monomoy Island.

"Conservation of white sharks is a key factor in the ocean legacy we leave to future generations," read a statement on the AWSC website.

A NOAA-led study published just last month in the journal PLOS ONE certainly provided reinforcement that conservation efforts, like those conducted by the AWSC, are making a difference. The report, also described in a Nature World News article, said that the great white shark population has grown in the western North Atlantic, thanks in part to efforts to protect the predator and its prey.

More seals have appeared along the East Coast in recent years, and where there are seals, there are usually sharks.

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