Yesterday we reported on how the Great White Sharks that are closing beaches on Cape Cod are also drawing shark tourists. Today another seal boat captain tells us they’re looking in the wrong spot.
Captain Keith Lincoln of Monomoy Island Ferry says that people are mistakenly hanging around Chatham Lighthouse since that’s where the shark was first sighted by kayakers a eating a seal in August. “That is all due to the misleading information given by the media,” says Captain Keith. “Massachusetts Department of Fisheries page shows all the taggings being done three miles south of the lighthouse near the area where South Beach and South Monomoy Island attached in 2006.”
Looking at the Fisheries map here, he’s totally right. Excellent tip, Captain Keith. (Though they do also show pictures of sharks offshore of the lighthouse.) He also warns that even if you’re in the right place, the odds of seeing a shark are pretty impossible. The tagging teams use spotters on planes and perches 35 feet out of the water.
Captain Keith reports he’s “calls about seeing the sharks, which is nearly impossible to guarantee.” I think the seal tourists of Cape Cod have gotten spoiled; the tour boats can guarantee sightings because they’re dealing with the east coast’s biggest colony of gray seals, which is somewhere around 10,000. Normally wildlife watching is no sure thing.
Captain Keith, a 20-year veteran of the seal tours, says the sharks (and attendant media frenzy) come every year. “I think this year is a little different in that the sharks showed up in a large number all at once.” The seal cruises have been popular since 1991 and continue to get more popular with a new tour company starting this year, amid the recession, Captain Keith says. “So that alone tells you people are interested in the seals.” He doesn’t anticipate any shark frenzy curbing enthusiasm for the seals. A bigger threat to the tours are the shifting sandbars and regulations about where they can dock, he says.
Seeing sharks is pretty iffy, but if you go out this fall, you can see lots of shorebirds like oystercatchers and sea ducks like eiders, scoters, and buffleheads. And in June, Monomoy is the Cape’s best spot to see mating horseshoe crabs pile on the beach.Overall their populations are down about 90% on Cape Cod in the last few decades, but researchers have shown that Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge has some of the highest densities left
Meanwhile, if you really want to see a shark off Cape Cod, check out this guy at Nantucket Shark Dives, who does shark dives with chum 30 miles off Nantucket and gets to see lots of blue sharks.
Where to See Seals (and maybe sharks). The tours often require a minimum group to make it worth their while to go out as their business tapers off in the fall.
Monomoy Island Ferry
Usually runs April – December
Adults $30, Kids 15 and under $25
Look for signs for the Rip Ryder Monomoy Island Ferry and USFWS Headquarters.
BeachcomberChatham’s Municipal Fish Pier on Shore Rd.
Adults $27, Seniors $25, Kids 3 -15 $23, Kids under 3 are free.
Blue Claw Boat Tours
Adults $25, Kids 12 and under $20
From Nantucket (year-round)
2.5 hours to
Town Pier in downtown Nantucket.
$90 Adults, $70 Children under 12
- Where to See Seals in the U.S. and Canada
- Where to See Sharks
- More Places to See Wildlife in the Northeast