PROVINCETOWN, Mass. (AP) — A great white shark was seen chomping on a seal off the coast of Cape Cod over the weekend, in a sure sign that summer is fast approaching.
The sighting Saturday morning by the crew and passengers on a vessel operated by Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch was the first confirmed white shark sighting of the season in the region’s waters.
The attack in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary about 5 miles off the coast was captured on video by company employee Michelle Silva.
“The entire event only lasted around 7 minutes from when we first saw the shark quickly break the surface of the water, in what we think was the initial strike, to when the seal was consumed,” the whale watch company posted on social media.
When the shark rises to the surface to grab a piece of seal flesh in its jaws, the roughly 150 passengers can be heard gasping in awe.
The shark was an estimated 12 feet (3.7 meters) long, the company said.
It’s rare for whale watch vessels to spot sharks, and almost unheard of to see them feeding.
“To witness an entire predation event is very rare,” Andrea Spence, a naturalist with the company, said on Monday.
The Cape Cod-based Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and the New England Aquarium in Boston both said Monday that it was the first eyewitness sighting of a white shark this season.
Cape Cod is the only known white shark aggregation site in the northwest Atlantic. The apex predators have been returning to the area in great numbers in recent years to feed on the rebounding seal population. Although there was a fatal white shark attack in Cape Cod waters in 2018, they pose little threat to humans, experts say.
“Though white shark bites on humans are rare, the sighting serves as a reminder to beachgoers and boaters to be mindful of the presence of these ocean animals,” John Chisholm, adjunct scientist in the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life said in a statement.