Few tourists stopping beach visits because of sharks

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While many are frightened of great white sharks, a majority of people believe they have control over whether they encounter the apex predators along Cape Cod.

Tourists especially are taking actions to avoid shark encounters, but only a few Cape visitors have cut back on their beach trips because of sharks since a person was killed by a great white in Wellfleet four years ago.

That’s according to a new survey released Monday about humans coexisting with sharks and seals along the Cape.

Representative samples of Cape visitors, residents and commercial fishers — about 2,000 people in total — responded by mail and online to survey questions covering beliefs and attitudes about seals and sharks, their views of lethal and non-lethal management, and if the presence of seals and sharks has changed their behavior at the beach.

When they are at Cape beaches, residents and tourists alike take multiple actions to avoid encounters with sharks, with tourists being especially vigilant.

These actions include checking and obeying signage and warning systems (66% of residents, 77% of tourists), avoiding areas where sharks have been reported (63% of residents, 55% of tourists), following lifeguard instructions (54% of residents, 74% of tourists), and avoiding seals (57% of residents, 51% of tourists).

Tourists (40%) are more likely than residents (21%) and commercial fishers (10%) to visit patrolled beaches to reduce the risk of shark encounters.

“Tourists are the most active, which is probably a good indication of the work of beach managers to get out those messages about how to avoid shark encounters,” said principal study investigator Professor Jennifer Jackman, from Salem State University’s Department of Politics, Policy and International Relations.

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