Over 800 sharks at popular holiday hotspot including terrifying 8ft 'Big Daddy'

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A warning sign is prominently displayed to beach goers at Indian Neck Beach in Cape Cod (Image: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A warning sign is prominently displayed to beach goers at Indian Neck Beach in Cape Cod (Image: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

As many as 800 sharks may be circling the waters off the coast of a popular US holiday hotspot including a mammoth 'Big Daddy' predator.

While beachgoers are making the most of the summer and headed to the Cape Cod coast, scientists are studying shark activity in the area, with more than 100 trips carried out to observe the apex predators.

Between 2015 and 2018, researchers documented 393 sharks off the coast in Massachusetts using spotter pilots and video cameras during 137 trips. Scientists then used this population to produce an estimate of around 800 sharks in the area.

The sharks gravitate toward Cape Cod to hunt for seals, with the study noting that sightings peak in August and September. Most of the sharks observed in the study were juveniles or so-called subadults.

An eight-and-a-half-foot-long white shark nicknamed Big Daddy was spotted swimming up Cape Cod's coast on Wednesday, July 26. He was first spotted around midday at Nauset Harbor in Orleans, according to the shark tracking app, Sharktivity.

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Over 800 sharks at popular holiday hotspot including terrifying 8ft 'Big Daddy'A Great White Shark swims off the shore of Cape Cod (AFP via Getty Images)

Big Daddy was first tagged on September 21, 2022, and since then has been seen a total of 647 times. Since July 21, 2023, around 40 sharks have been found off the coastline.

According to a study XX reliable estimates of white shark populations are "more important than ever" given that populations in several regions "are seemingly recovering as a result of several decades of protection". The study went on to say: "As recovering populations return to regions where they have long been rare or absent, increased interactions between sharks and humans can create conflict and undermine public support of conservation policies."

The researchers reassured the "overall risk posed to recreational water users remains low". White sharks were designated as a protected species in most federal waters in the US in 1997 and in Massachusetts state waters in 2005.

Over 800 sharks at popular holiday hotspot including terrifying 8ft 'Big Daddy'People swim beneath 'Jaws Bridge' during JawsFest: The Tribute festival at Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts (Getty Images)

Prior to this the sharks were hunted and considered a trophy catch for recreational fisheries. White sharks off the coast of Cape Cod have increased in numbers, which has been tied to increases in the seal populations.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the white shark is listed as vulnerable. One of the world's largest known predatory fish, it has 300 teeth but does not chew its food.

Instead, sharks rip up their prey into mouth-sized pieces which they then swallow whole. Their fierce appearance has led to the sharks being portrayed as a ferocious beach menace, just look at Jaws, but attacks on humans are rare.

While white sharks are among the top three species most likely to injure humans, there were only 57 confirmed unprovoked shark bites on humans and 32 provoked bites worldwide in 2022. White sharks are a widespread species, mostly found in temperate areas including coastal waters off South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, California, the north-eastern coast of the US and Canada and the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Fiona Leishman

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