Coast Guard issues holiday weekend shark advisory for New England

Boston — With the confirmed presence of great white sharks off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., and a 7-foot great white shark recently caught on Stellwagen Bank, Mass., the U.S. Coast Guard cautions coastal recreational boaters and paddlers to be aware of the dangers these predators present.

Over the past few years, sharks sighted off the coast of New England have ranged from six to 15-feet in length and could easily capsize a small boat or kayak.

“Predation is not generally a concern for boaters and paddlers in Northeast waters,” said Al Johnson, the First Coast Guard District’s recreational boating specialist, “but I have no doubt that a great white shark that swims into your comfort zone would surely find a splashing paddle or dangling hand inviting. I also expect that same passing shark would spend little time differentiating between boater, paddler and prey.”

While shark attacks on humans in the Northeast are rare and there have been no recent sightings along coastal beaches, sharks are attracted to the area by the growing seal population. Johnson advises boaters and paddlers to avoid passing pods or springs of seals and avoid seal colonies and other areas where pinnipeds bask.

“Simply put, why take a chance,” said Johnson, “the presence of sharks in our waters creates a risk and positively assessing that risk and staying alert is part of being a responsible and prudent mariner.”

“I can also imagine,” continued Johnson, “the excitement most boaters and paddlers would have if they visually encountered a shark on our waters. However, things can and do go wrong on the water and since a close encounter could easily have tragic consequence, I recommend an extreme degree of caution.”

Johnson also recommends, with the July Fourth holiday weekend upon us that boaters and paddlers abide by the following:

  • always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, especially on children and weak swimmers;
  • be aware of weather and water conditions;
  • never boat or paddle alone – file a float plan to let others know where you are going;
  • be cautious – do not exceed your ability to handle your vessel;
  • know that alcohol and drugs contribute to accidents and,
  • be constantly aware of other vessels in the immediate area.

Johnson also recommends coastal and off-shore recreational boaters and sea kayakers carry a VHF marine radio, either a fixed system or handheld unit, and be familiar with its operation and radio procedures.

“The VHF radio, monitored on channel 16,” Johnson said, “is your gateway to communicating with the Coast Guard or other vessels in your area and can be a life saver in a distress situation.”

For additional boating safety tips, boaters can access the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety website.

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