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First white shark sighting of season confirmed

A white shark was seen eating a seal off the coast of Nantucket Sunday.

After the first official white shark sighting of the summer, the public is being urged to brush up on shark safety tips. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Memorial day is here and so is the unofficial start of summer in New England. That means a couple things for residents: sun, sand, surf, and… sharks. 

The first official white shark sighting of the season in Massachusetts occurred Sunday, and officials are urging the public to bone up on shark safety before hitting the beach. 

A video of the sighting was initially posted online by Nantucket Current, and confirmed Monday by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. In the video, onlookers audibly marvel at the sight of a shark eating a seal close to the shore. The sighting happened just off Great Point on Nantucket, according to AWSC. 

Those that see white sharks this summer are encouraged to report their sightings through AWSC’s Sharktivity App. Researchers, safety officials, and members of the public can all upload information to the app, which allows the sightings to be tracked and confirmed. Crowdsourcing these “critical data points” helps to reduce encounters and promote safety, according to AWSC. 

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White sharks mostly prey on seals, and become more numerous as the seal population increases. White shark numbers were declining until federal laws designated them as a protected species in 1997. Massachusetts state laws followed suit in 2005, according to the National Park Service. 

The area’s growing seal population and white sharks’ protected status have caused a significant rebound for the animals around Cape Cod. The National Park Service has no plans to take actions that would reduce seal or shark populations. 

As the shark population has grown, so too has the “shark tourism” industry, with charter boat operators offering shark sighting tours off the coast. 

Sharks hunt for seals in shallow water, so beachgoers should stay close to shore and limit splashing. They should also avoid isolation in the water, as well as areas where seals are present or areas with low visibility. 

Flags with a white shark silhouette on a purple background are used at beaches with lifeguards to signal shark activity. 

White shark season tends to peak in the late summer or early fall, sightings and attacks can happen anytime. The last deadly shark attack in New England occurred in Maine in 2020. 

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