Atlantic White Shark Recovery

White sharks were designated as a protected species in most federal waters in 1997 and in Massachusetts state waters in 2005. Beforehand, white sharks were hunted and considered a trophy hunt for recreational fisheries. In the past decade, increases in white shark sightings and catch records in the broader Northwest Atlantic have increased, which suggests some level of population recovery, but stock status remains uncertain. The increased presence of white sharks off of Cape Cod has been tied to increases in seal populations.

 
Photo by Wayne Davis

Photo by Wayne Davis

Grey Seal Recovery

Archeological data and anecdotal evidence suggest that grey seals inhabited the waters between Connecticut and Maine until the end of the 1600s, when the hunting of seals became so widespread that grey seals became extirpated, or extinct at a local level. Through the twentieth century, seal populations remained low in the western North Atlantic. It wasn’t until the hunting and killing of seals was outlawed in Massachusetts in the 1960s and in the entire country in 1972, via the Marine Mammal Protection Act, that seals began to repopulate the region. With the resurgence of seal numbers, sharks have returned to the waters in search of a steady food supply.

Photo by John Chisholm

Photo by John Chisholm

 
 

While increases in the local abundance of both seals and sharks are considered a conservation success story, conflicts related to seal and shark populations, threaten continued conservation of both species.