Over the years, the seal population in the waters off Cape Cod has increased dramatically, thus attracting some of the Cape's most notorious visitors - sharks! With the arrival of summer, sharks sometimes come to the waters off Cape Cod to feed on the abundance of seals that inhabit these waters. Like the sharks, the seals are well known, but, unlike the sharks, the seals tend to receive far more "Aw, how cute!" comments from visitors and residents alike.
The two most common species of seal found in the surrounding waters are the grey seal and harbor seal. Gray seals tend to be about 5 feet long and weigh 200 pounds, and the bulls (male seals) can grow as long as 10 feet long and weigh in at 680 pounds. The harbor seals are usually smaller than the grey seals and are also distinguishable by their spotted appearance. The harbor seals are a bit more interested in humans, especially fishermen, and can often be seen escorting fishing boats into harbor or hanging around fishing nets looking for a free meal. The plentiful food supply of cod, herring and skate in the waters off Cape Cod make for a rich feeding ground for both the harbor and the grays seals. Seals tend to eat whatever is available to them, including lobsters, octopus, and even seabirds!
As the seals come to feed on the copious amounts of food in the waters off Cape Cod and the Islands, the sharks come for the same reason, the abundance of food in the form of seals. Many sharks have been tagged over the past few years, and researchers follow their back and forth journeys from southern waters to our beloved waters.
Recently, the Great White shark has been in the news due to some sightings off Cape Cod. The Great White is certainly an intimidating creature. It grows to an average of 15 feet, can weigh as much at 5000 pounds, and is able move along at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. In the film, "Jaws," sharks were referred to as "mindless eating machines," but this is actually untrue. They are, in fact, really only looking for seals and other sealife. Humans, thankfully, are not their preferred meal.
Courtesy of the Atlantic White Shark Conservatory
The seals and, especially, the sharks have people flocking to Cape Cod to catch a glimpse of these creatures of the sea. So, where is best to see these Cape Codders? Most likely off the shores of Chatham, where large groups of seals gather. Should you be swimming, kayaking or surfing and you come across a family of seals, you may want to get out of the water, just to be safe.
Another option is to arrange a trip on a boat tour with one of the many certified boat tour operators on Cape Cod. A seal and/or shark excursion is sure to be a highlight of your summer vacation. Monomoy Island Excursions can take you on a leisurely cruise off Chatham’s coast to get a closer look at the natural wildlife. See them at Monomoy Island Excursions
Not interested in seeing a shark up close and personal? Well then, head to one of the local gift shops for some souvenirs and trinkets. There is no shortage of shark-themed memorabilia, ranging from T-shirts to stuffed animals and everything in between.
No doubt about it, there is a lot of passionate discussion about Cape Cod’s seals and sharks!
Thank you to the Atlantic White Shark Conservatory (on twitter @A_WhiteShark) for the use of their shark image.