Fear on Cape Cod as Sharks Hunt Again

The apex predator is back.
Photograph by Tyler Hicks

Over the past decade, the waters around Cape Cod have become host to one of the densest seasonal concentrations of adult white sharks in the world. To conservationists, the annual returns are a success story, a welcome sign of ecosystem recovery at a time when many wildlife species are depleted. But the phenomenon carries unusual public-safety implications. The sharks' summer residency in New England overlaps with tourist season at one of the Northeast's most coveted recreational areas. Moreover, the animals are hunting in remarkably shallow water, at times within feet of the beach. This puts large numbers of people in close contact with a fast and efficient megapredator, historically the oceans' most feared fish.

Not long ago, "the greatest threat on the Cape was ticks," said Lisa Sette, a biologist with the Center for Coastal Studies, in Provincetown. "Now we have to rethink how we enter the water, as we have an apex predator that has returned."

In our cover story this week, C.J. Chivers reports on the efforts to keep people safe in the water, now that sharks are back along New England's beaches.


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