Three years after great white shark attacks caused one death and rocked beachgoers, shark-related tourism has grown in the vacation destination of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Local shops in Chatham sell shark-themed apparel and other knickknacks, with jaws on illustrated sharks open wide and revealing large pointed teeth.
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Interested parties are able to join charter boat operators on great white shark tours near the coastline for a fee.
Cape Cod hosts about 4 million visitors a year, who bring in more than $1 billion in tourism spending and support thousands of jobs.
As shark experts call for a rebranding of the marine predators – suggesting that attacks be relabeled “incidents” or “interactions” – Cape Cod has begun to tentatively embrace its toothier neighbors.
“Several years ago, there was a concern that it might have a negative impact on tourism,” Paul Niedzwiecki, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, told The Associated Press earlier this month. “But we’ve been working to educate people about sharks and what we’ve actually seen is no negative impact.”
While there’s no definitive tally for how much shark-related tourism contributes to the Cape Cod economy, Niedzwiecki said that its growth is helping to extend the tourist season into the fall.
Peak shark sightings happen in August and September, and dozens of beaches have been closed in recent weeks as sharks travel up and down the East Coast.
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Weather permitting, shark researchers expect to be out tagging and observing the creatures into November.
Although Massachusetts does not rank in the top 10 states for most unprovoked bites, activity is currently “much sharkier,” Atlantic White Shark Conservancy ecotourism naturalist Maddie Poirier told The Boston Herald.
Seal populations, deliciously meaty shark snacks, have also been increasing, according to the Cape Cod Times.
Officials have worked to invest in better training and equipment for lifeguards and first responders, surfers have armed themselves with shark repellents and other groups have pushed for additional safety measures including land-based warning systems and drone surveillance.
On the Atlantic coast, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) coastal survey this year captured nearly 2,500 sharks from 11 different species.
Much like the sandbar shark, white sharks are found on both coasts and great whites are the world’s largest known predatory fish, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.
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Globally, there were around 129 alleged shark-human interactions in 2020, according to the International Shark Attack File.
There were 13 three shark-related fatalities, 10 of which were classified as unprovoked.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.