Tourists are flocking to the Cape Cod in large numbers to catch a glimpse of the great white sharks. It has stirred a buying frenzy in the town of Chatham. Merchants have seen about 500% rise in the sales of shark apparel. Entrepreneurs are selling shark T-shirts, hats, belts, dog collars, hoodies and even stuffed animals – all bearing the images of sharks. These products sell for between $10 and $45.
Local theaters have been playing “Jaws” and boat tours are taking a lot of tourists to see the seal population that attracts sharks. Coin-operated binoculars have been strategically placed on the beaches for tourists. Though harbormasters have issued warnings, the great white sharks are usually not considered a threat to human swimmers. Local businesses feared that shark sightings may hurt the tourist economy, but the business is booming.
Cape Cod has a large population of gray seals, whose blubber is a tasty food for sharks. The number of great white sharks off the Eastern U.S. and Canada had been declining for decades. But a study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month revealed that the number of great whites has started surging. Better availability of prey such as seals and increased conservation efforts have been the key to reversal.
Shark sightings have increased from fewer than two per year before 2004 to more than 20 now off Cape Cod. Gregory Skomal, a senior biologist and head of the Massachusetts Shark Research Program told the New York Post that the white sharks draw amazing attention in our society. People are coming to Cape Cod to see the great whites in their splendor. Skomal said he had never heard anyone in Cape Cod say, “Let’s go kill these sharks.”
Confrontation of sharks with humans is rare. Data provided by the University of Florida show that there have been only 106 unprovoked white shark attacks in the U.S. waters since 1916. Among them, only 13 were fatal. However, officials realize the extent of damage to tourism if one of the sharks bites a person. So, they have distributed brochures to raise awareness of sharks.