White sharks lurking in Massachusetts waters, New England Aquarium warns ahead of Memorial Day weekend

Beachgoers may be flocking to the shorelines this Memorial Day weekend – but so might white sharks, which have been spotted recently in New England, scientists in Massachusetts have warned.

The New England Aquarium in Boston urged the public to be on the lookout for sharks while enjoying the water as the unofficial start of summer gets underway, the non-profit shared in a news release Thursday.

The aquarium’s scientists said multiple marine mammals were discovered with shark bites recently off the Massachusetts coast, according to the release.

White sharks are drawn to New England’s inshore waters to prey on seals and other marine life through summer and into fall when activity peaks, the aquarium said in a Facebook post, and scientists expect to see a rise in sharks with the rise in warmer temperatures.

“Although scientists and fishers have not photographed a white shark yet this season, we know that they are here,” New England Aquarium said on Facebook. Aquarium officials added hundreds of seals were recently sighted along area beaches and two white sharks were briefly spotted from an aerial survey off Monomoy Island in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Depending on the time of year, more than 15 shark species live in New England’s waters, the New England Aquarium said.

“We had a white shark eat a seal in front of some whale watchers this time last year,” John Chisholm, an adjunct scientist in the aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, told CNN via email.

“May is when white shark activity typically picks up, so it’s nothing out of the norm,” he said.

A deceased minke whale was spotted with a white shark bite off Chatham, Massachusetts, on May 21, 2024. - John Chisholm
A deceased minke whale was spotted with a white shark bite off Chatham, Massachusetts, on May 21, 2024. - John Chisholm

A fishing charter company reported a minke whale with a shark bite earlier this week off Chatham, Massachusetts, and Chisholm took photos showing a freshly shark-bitten seal in Plymouth, Massachusetts, according to the aquarium.

“With beach weather in the forecast … this is a good reminder for people to review shark safety guidelines and be shark smart,” Chisholm said in the release.

Cape Cod National Seashore officials reported sharks are active in the park waters of each of its beaches, according to the National Park Service.

The aquarium reported four confirmed white whale sightings so far this season as of Saturday, according to Chisholm.

The New England Aquarium urged people to be aware of sharks swimming in shallow waters, avoiding spots where schools of fish or seals are visible, and remaining close to the shoreline so emergency responders can help if necessary, according to the release.

People who spot sharks can report sightings through the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s Sharktivity app, according to the conservancy and the aquarium.

A 2023 study found a superpopulation size of around 800 white sharks in the Cape Cod area between 2015 and 2018.

While the total number of unprovoked shark bites reported globally remains “extremely low,” according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File, unprovoked shark bite deaths rose over the past year with most of the deaths caused by white shark bites.

Three of those deaths occurred in Australia and one person was killed in California, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

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