Public Safety Disclaimer

While our research and educational undertakings are meant to inform public safety initiatives throughout the Northeast, AWSC does not hold jurisdiction over local beaches. For up-to-date information on how your beach is employing safety measures and preparedness tactics, please contact your beach directly.

Cover Photo - credit Wayne Davis.jpg


The inshore waters off many Cape Cod and South Shore beaches are preferred feeding grounds for white sharks. White sharks hunt and feed on seals in shallow water close to shore. This presents an obvious threat to those swimming in ocean waters. While white shark bites on humans are rare, they have occurred off Cape Cod. The most recent bite in September of 2018 resulted in a fatality.

Local municipalities in the Cape and Islands and the Cape Cod National Seashore are responsible for beach management and for temporarily closing the beach to swimming when a shark sighting is confirmed. AWSC works closely with these entities, along with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, to produce shark advisory signs for beaches, flags, and brochures that provide education and tips for beach users. Nonetheless, the only way to completely eliminate the risk of an encounter with a shark is to remain on shore.

if you choose to enter the water:

  • Be aware sharks hunt for seals in shallow water.  

  • Stay close to shore where rescuers can reach you.

  • Swim, paddle, kayak and surf in groups – don’t isolate yourself.

  • Avoid areas where seals are present.

  • Avoid areas where schools of fish are visible.

  • Avoid murky or low visibility water.

  • Limit splashing.

  • Adhere to all signage and flag warnings at beaches.

  • Follow instructions of the lifeguards.

Shark Bite first aid

The risk of shark-human encounters exists when sharks are in the area (visit our research page to learn when activity is at it’s peak). Most white shark bite victims survive because of first aid initiated from bystanders. White shark bites generally result in massive hemorrhaging which requires immediate first aid in order to stop the blood loss. Our community offers free training sessions on how to stop bleeding, which can be applied in a multitude of accidents, including a shark bite. Sign up for a ‘Stop the Bleed’ training, and you could save a life. Contact your town directly or visit ‘Stop the Bleed’ to search for classes and get more information on the training program.

Purple Flag

The purple flag flies to remind beach-goers that white sharks frequent the area.