A couple of shark encounters grabbed national headlines this weekend. And while the Great Whites are fascinating and scary, what’s attracting them could be the bigger problem.
Sunday, a first-time kayaker off Cape Cod in Orleans, Massachusetts was chased by a shark. A surfer pointed out the dorsal fin as he was paddling just 100 feet off shore. The picture’s amazing.
The kayaker made for the beach to safety. The harbormaster said the shark was at least 12 feet long and witnesses on the beach said it was bigger than the kayak. The survivor joked that he’d teased his daughter earlier in the day after she’d said she was scared of sharks. He says he’s not afraid to go back into the water, though.
A kayaker in Santa Cruz, California had a much closer encounter with a much bigger shark this weekend. He was fishing with friends when a 15-18 foot shark closed in. His friends pulled him to safety, but the shark left a mark. There were teeth marks in the kayak and even tooth fragments.
But marine experts say you shouldn't worry about sharks. They say you should worry about seals. Sharks are hunting seals and that’s what’s bringing them so close to shore.
Seals have been protected since the 1960’s. That protection got tougher under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972. It’s a crime to injure or harass any marine mammal, including seals.
There’s no official count on the seal population, but some experts estimate a quarter million grey seals migrate to the Eastern Seaboard this time of year. Aerial surveys found the Harbor Seal population nearing 100,000 from Maine to Connecticut, but it’s tough to judge their actual numbers, since it’s hard to spot seals in the water.
But while seal hunting has been banned, shark hunting or “finning” continues. The seal population is exploding, while their natural predators are dwindling in number.