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On Tuesday, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy put out some drone footage of an interaction between two great white sharks off the coast of Chatham.
So, what's happening in the footage and is it typical great white behavior?
On what the footage shows
For the last 10 years, we’ve been looking at white sharks off Cape Cod, and we’ve been seeing all kinds of scarring and wound patterns that could only be attributed to other white sharks. But we've never seen any kind of interaction between white sharks directly — no direct observations. This particular footage — which shows a white shark moving through shallow waters and then another one quickly approaching it and seemingly trying to grab onto it, and then the original white shark kind of twisting away and taking off — is quite intriguing to us because we’ve never seen these kind of social interactions before. What it all means, I don’t know.
On whether the activity could be playful
It’s never been documented in these fish, that kind of activity. There tends to be — when it comes to social behavior between sharks — there tends to be territoriality that could be protection of one’s own space. It could be defensive posturing, there could be aggressive interactions and there could be behavior that would be indicative of courtship or mating, and that’s pretty much it.
"[W]e’ve never seen these kind of social interactions before. What it all means, I don’t know."
On what’s bringing the sharks to the Cape
Basically, as we have restored — very effectively restored — seal populations to fairly high levels, it’s only quite natural that the biomass of seals is going to attract their natural predator, and those predators are white sharks. As the seals are piled up all along the Massachusetts coastline, even into the Gulf of Maine and Canada, these sharks will approach these areas in an attempt to feed on them.
On how beachgoers can protect themselves
I know that in the short term, I can’t control the behavior of the sharks — which are the predators — or the seals, which are the prey. But I can control my behavior, so I’m encouraging people to — if you’re in areas where there are high densities of seals, where this predator-prey relationship is playing out every day — take that into consideration when it comes to your activities in the water. Don’t expose yourself to undue risk. I would suggest staying close to shore. I wouldn’t put yourself in water that’s much over your waist, particularly if there’s high densities of seals in the area. These sharks are hunting and they’re hunting in very shallow water, and that water can be very close to shore. … And remember, the risk is quite low. The probability of a shark attack is still a really, really low probability.
On what to do if you encounter a shark in the water
If the shark’s biting you, you want to strike the shark any way you can to discourage it and force it to let go, and it will let go. But if the shark is just circling or close, just remove yourself from the water. Put yourself at safety.
This segment aired on July 9, 2019.
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