Year of the Shark: All the Local Sightings and Attacks of 2014

Handout photo of a shark swimming.
Handout photo of a shark swimming. –AFP/Getty Images

As the unofficial home of the original “Jaws’’ movie, locals know to expect a shark sighting or two each summer.

But with sharks chewing up kayaks, it’s time to start taking stock of the state of our local waters. Whether you’re celebrating the rebouding shark population or scared to know that means more of them, this summer has been one of the sharkiest in recent memory.

June 24: Fishermen Spot Enormous Great White in Cape Cod Bay

It all started back on June 24, and boy did it start off big. Camera-wielding fishermen out in Cape Cod Bay spotted a shark and started rolling their camera. What was just the tip of a dorsal fin in the distance quickly turned into the real deal. As it turns out, that was an estimated 16-to-18-foot female Great White. In the clip, it’s hard to tell how huge this fish is, but close your eyes to imagine how long 18 feet is. If it helps, picture a Hummer. That’s about 17 feet long.


June 29: Researchers Find Civic-Sized Sharked Off Nauset Beach

Just five days later, a 12-to-14-foot female Great White (closer to the size of a Honda Civic) was spotted approximately a quarter mile off of Nauset Beach by crews working with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC).

July 11: Man Arrested After Swimming With a Shark at New England Aquarium

The seas grew quiet after that. So quiet that the only shark-related news in early July came thanks to a man who decided to take a dip in a shark tank at the New England Aquarium. Stephen Pellegrine swam around for several minutes before he was arrested and told to stay away from the aquarium. No animals were harmed, and neither was Pellegrine.

July 20 – Aug. 11: Sharks Out in Full Force, Average of Sighting Every Two Days

By the end of the month, sharks were back in the news with the AWSC announcement about a string of sightings to close out July and kick off August. On July 20, another shark was spotted close to Nauset Beach on Cape Cod. A group of researchers found another shark on July 30 near Chatham. And then Dr. Greg Skomal with the Massachusetts Shark Research Program tagged a different shark near Chatham on Aug. 4. But on Aug. 8, researchers hit the motherlode, spotting four or five white sharks in all and tagging yet another near Chatham. And just three days later. the same fishermen who saw our Hummer-sized friend back in June returned to Cape Cod Bay and spotted another Hummer-sized shark on Aug. 11. To be clear, that’s nine sightings in 23 days.


Aug. 21 – Aug. 26: Nevermind, Now They’re Out in Full Force, 13 Sharks in 5 Days

Sightings dwindled to zero for the next ten days, from Aug. 11-21, but the summer of sharks wasn’t over. Not even close.

On Aug. 21, researchers posted a video of a shark near Chatham’s South Beach. The male white shark was the 12th sighting of the year, by our count, but Skomal told The Boston Globe that there had likely been “well over a dozen’’ at that point. (What sightings are they hiding from us!? contacted Dr. Skomal in the hopes of getting his estimate, but were unable to reach him.)

The week that followed was full of sightings. Aug. 22 was another fruitful day, with researchers getting footage of four new male sharks in various locations. Duxbury Beach shut down for several hours on Aug. 25 when a large Great White was spotted. The very next day, researchers spotted another seven sharks.

That’s 13 sharks in less than a week, and when something like that happens, of course people start to get a little shark-crazy.

Aug. 27 – 28: False Sightings Are a Real Bummer for Beach-Goers

Aug. 27 and 28 brought a couple of reported sightings that turned out to be nothing but sunfish. We can cut the spotters some slack here since the dorsal fins of sunfish have a tendency to look like the dorsal fins of sharks. Either way, both non-sightings resulted in officials shutting down long stretches of beach in Marshfield and Duxbury.

Aug. 29: The Sharks Are Coming for our Rivers


By the end of August, no one really knew what to think. Is that a shark? Is that a sunfish? Is that two kids with snorkels playing a silly prank?

Well, on Aug. 29, it was a shark. A 10-to-12-foot basking shark was spotted nearly 10 miles inland in the Taunton River. Skomal reportedly said that the shark was likely a juvenile, which is a good thing since basking sharks can grow to be 30 feet long.

Sept. 3: Oh God, They’re Attacking

The latest sighting, on Sept. 3, actually took the form of our first and only reported shark attack so far this year. Two women kayaking off the coast of Plymouth claim that a great white shark came out of nowhere and bit into their vessel. Neither woman was hurt. Earlier that same day, a different kayaker claimed to have seen a shark attack and kill a seal, but the shark was never found.

Don’t Expect the Sightings to Stop Any Time Soon

In all, that’s about 26 sightings so far this year and one attack. The increase in sightings actually follows research that indicates the shark population is on the rise in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New England and Canada.

Happy Swimming!

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