Shark Safety at Cape Cod

Great White Sharks at Cape Cod

Cape Cod's waters are part of a natural and wild marine ecosystem with a rich diversity of sea life, including sharks. Seals are the major prey species for the great white shark, and as the seal population increases, the great white shark has become more numerous. There are confirmed reports of great white sharks feeding on seals close to shore. Spotter planes flying along the Outer Cape have also observed great white sharks near swimming beaches.

The national seashore is committed to continuing to explore ways to educate the public to help reduce risk when recreating in wild habitats. While it is rare for a great white shark to bite a human, since 2012, sharks have bitten people three times in the waters off Truro and Wellfleet. One bite in 2018 resulted in a fatality.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sharks and Public Safety
Cape Cod Great White Shark Safety

Shark Facts

  • Sharks have existed for more than 400-million years.
  • As top predators, sharks are critical for maintaining a healthy and balanced marine ecosystem.
  • Great white shark numbers have increased on the Cape because of a growing seal population which has rebounded after being hunted to near extinction.

Stay Safe and Protect Wildlife

  • Follow instructions of lifeguards and national seashore staff. Become familiar with the beach flag warning system. Take time to read the signs at the beaches.
  • Do not swim near seals.
  • Swim close to shore, waist deep where your feet can touch the bottom.
  • Swim, paddle, kayak, and surf in groups.
  • Do not swim alone in the ocean at dawn or dusk.
  • Avoid isolation.
  • Limit splashing and do not wear shiny jewelry.
A white shark silhouette on a purple field found on warning flags at life-guarded beaches.
A white shark silhouette on a purple background found on the flags at life-guarded beaches, when a lifeguard is on duty.

If You See a Shark and a Lifeguard is on Duty

  • Notify a lifeguard if a shark is sighted.
  • The water will be temporarily closed to swimming or surfing.
  • Beach goers will be notified when they can re-enter the water.
A white wooden lifeguard chair sits empty on the beach with a sunset in the background.

If You See a Shark and a Lifeguard is not on Duty

  • If it is an emergency dial 911.
  • If you have the Sharktivity App report the sighting on the app.
  • If you do not have the Sharktivity App, contact one of the ranger stations at: (508)255-2112 or (508)487-2100. Make sure to tell the ranger you would like to report a non-emergency shark sighting. If no one answers, please leave a message!
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Learn about the ongoing study of the great white shark, and the basics of shark safety while visiting Cape Cod. Whether you plan to visit a national seashore beach or town beach, knowing how to balance enjoyment with the risks is important to having a fun and safe experience.

Last updated: November 7, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

99 Marconi Site Road
Wellfleet, MA 02667


(508) 255-3421

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