Shark attack data kept by shark researchers shows that the number of reported attacks on humans in Massachusetts during the last 20 years is more than twice the number of incidents recorded in the previous 160 years.
The more frequent reported shark attacks on humans come as Cape Cod’s seal population has exploded, which has attracted great white sharks close to the Cape shore.
There have been more reported shark attacks in recent years, but researchers stress that the potential danger “should be kept in perspective.”
Data from the Global Shark Attack File includes 15 reported valid shark attacks in Massachusetts since 1837.
Seven incidents occurred from 1837 to 2000. The eight other attacks were recorded after 2000, with the most recent being a fatal attack in 2018 in Wellfleet — the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts in 82 years.
The Global Shark Attack File details what type of activity the person was doing: Fishing (6 attacks), swimming (3), kayaking (1), stand-up paddleboarding (1), wading (1), body surfing (1), scuba diving (1), and boogie boarding (1).
“It is the goal of the Global Shark Attack File to demonstrate and emphasize, through forensic analysis, the significance of shark/human interactions in comparison to the myriad dangers that we face in our daily lives,” the website states. “With a better understanding of these interactions we can minimize the risk of being injured by a shark and concentrate on the conservation of all shark species worldwide.”
While much of the attention is around Cape shark incidents, there have been attacks in other parts of Massachusetts, including in Chelsea Creek — which runs between Chelsea and East Boston — in 1847. That’s when a shark bit a man’s arm as he was wading in the creek after shooting a duck that fell into the water.
In 1897, a fisherman in a small boat 30 miles south of Lynn died from a shark attack. In 1936, a 16-year-old boy from Dorchester was swimming just above Mattapoisett Harbor when a shark bit his thigh; he died as surgeons were amputating his leg.
“Shark attack is a potential danger that must be acknowledged by anyone that frequents marine waters, but it should be kept in perspective,” the International Shark Attack File website reads. “Bees, wasps and snakes are responsible for far more fatalities each year.
“In the United States deaths occur up to 30 more times from lighting strikes per year, than from shark attacks per year,” the website states. “For most people, any shark-human interaction is likely to occur while swimming or surfing in nearshore waters. From a statistical standpoint the chances of dying in this area are markedly higher from many other causes (such as drowning and cardiac arrest) than from shark attack.”