Great Whites Gather Near Martha’s Vineyard

Written by on July 24, 2011 in Marine Life

Emily Tripp
Senior Writer

Over the last few weeks great white sharks have been appearing in the Northeast in record numbers.

They are primarily gathering by Monomoy Island by Martha’s Vineyard.  Sharks migrate up here every year to feed, but the larger-than-normal gray seal population has attracted a huge group of great whites.  They are drawn here because the gray seals are larger and fatter than the harbor seals of Cape Cod.

“Gray seals have a lot of blubber and meat, so they are a high efficiency preferred menu item of great white sharks,” New England Aquarium spokesperson Tony LaCasse told Discovery News.  “Somehow the word is out in the great white world that this is the place to be.”

He added, “Humans are not on their menu because we are a completely inefficient meal, since great white sharks are looking for maximum calories per kill.”

Illustration by Matt Rosen.

Illustration by Matt Rosen.

Monomoy Island is an eight mile sand-island that extends southwest from Cape Cod and a national wildlife refuge.  The great whites have cause a increase in the tourism industry here, as families come to observe these predators.  LaCasse said during one recent tour, “a great white took a free swimming seal” in a big, exciting, bloody mess.

While some enjoy observing the sharks, others are not pleased with the seals.  In the past few weeks, five gray seals were found shot on Cape Cod beaches but it is unclear who shot them.  Some fishermen have said that the seals have decreased the availability of some fish.

No shark attacks have been reported off Massachusetts this year, according to a technician at the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

To avoid encounters with these predators, LaCasses advises, “If you see a seal in the water, you should not be in the water.  We’re poor swimmers, and when sharks see us thrashing around, they can confuse us for their desired prey.”



Copyright ©  2011 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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