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Are Great White Sharks as Far North as Massachusetts?

This summer, great white sharks are making a splash in Massachusetts. These infamous sea creatures are showing up all over the coast and getting close to the shoreline.

Witness videos show them ripping into seals, stalking beaches, and swimming a little too close for comfort. Even experts say this behavior is relatively new, and these sharks were rare around the Cape Cod area until about 20 years ago.

We dug into the increased appearances of these fearsome fish in the northern Atlantic Ocean. 

Let’s dive in!

A great white shark swimming in water, potentially off the coast of Massachusetts.
Great White Sharks range all along the Atlantic Coast

Shark Sightings Are on the Rise in Massachusetts This Summer

Summer is shark season in the U.S., and they’re certainly making headlines this summer.

People spotted 28 great white sharks (GWS) along Massachusetts shores by the first week of July. While some sightings were brief, others were too close for comfort. Videos emerged of them attacking seals along multiple beaches. In response, officials issued alerts and closed numerous beaches to the public.

According to one scientist, increasing sightings is a fairly new phenomenon. You wouldn’t usually observe GWS near the Massachusetts coast until the early 2000s. This is due to various factors, including marine conservation efforts that began in the 1970s.

If you dare to visit the Massachusetts coast, here are the 9 Best Things to Do On Cape Cod.

About Great White Sharks

You probably think of the great white shark as one of the ocean’s top predators. And you’re right. Out of all the hunting fish in the sea, they’re the biggest. These can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh as much as 5,000 pounds.

Thanks to their size and fearsome reputation, GWS are some of Earth’s most recognizable marine creatures. Most people can identify their dark eyes, cone-shaped faces, and oblong bodies. While “great” refers to their size, “white” refers to their familiar white underbelly.

These sharks reproduce only once every few years and may live to be 70 years old. They spend most of their lives migrating in search of food. Their diets consist mainly of seals and sea lions, which they stalk by swimming close to the ocean floor.

These massive fish swim incredibly long distances, sometimes traveling up to 2,500 miles in one year. Sightings occur in nearly every corner of the U.S. You can find great whites off the coast of Florida, Mexico, and even Alaska. Recently, sharks became a common sight in the North Atlantic region.

Which States Make Up the North Atlantic Region?

Great white shark sightings are more common in Massachusetts nowadays than 20 years ago. But people are also seeing more of them all over the North Atlantic region.

The U.S.’s North Atlantic region stretches from Maine to Delaware. It includes coastal areas in those states, plus Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. This massive region spans 465 miles!

The North Atlantic region contains multiple ecosystems thanks to a specific set of climate and water conditions. Travel along the coast, and you’ll find marshes, dunes, and even fens.

The wildlife in the North Atlantic region is impressive as well. Hundreds of species thrive in this part of the ocean. Sea turtles, barracudas, and giant tuna are just a few.

While you’re touring the northern US: 10 Best RV Destinations in New England.

How Far North Can You Find Great White Sharks in the Atlantic?

For a long time, people believed that GWS lived only in southern coastal areas. But after the invention of GPS technology, scientists began tracking them more closely. Researchers discovered that these sharks are, in fact, extremely mobile.

North Atlantic great whites usually spend the summer and fall months near eastern Canada and New England. This area is perfect for hunting seals and sea lions, which give them the nutrition they need for cold months. 

The massive fish swim south for winter and spring, typically settling between South Carolina and the Gulf of Mexico.

Great whites in other parts of the world use different migration paths. Some travel between South Africa and Australia depending on the weather patterns. On the West Coast, you’ll find them swimming between the Aleutian Islands and southern Mexico. One shark may swim an entire ocean within a year.

A big Lionfish up and close to the camera with a blue background. Lionfish, like the Great White Sharks, can be found on the Massachusetts coast.
Lionfish, threatening in their own right, can also be found along the Massachusetts coast

What Other Sharks and Dangerous Creatures Are in the North Atlantic?

GWS are one of the many shark species living in the North Atlantic region. This ultra-diverse area houses an unbelievable number of fish and sea creatures.

In addition to great whites, the North Atlantic region is home to sandbar, smooth dogfish, and sand tiger sharks. Although these slightly resemble great whites, they tend to be smaller. They also lack the characteristic white belly.

But sharks aren’t the only dangerous creatures in this area. Stingrays and jellyfish, known for their painful stings, live here too. And watch out for sea urchins and lionfish! They aren’t known for being dangerous, but their spines are venomous.

Of course, the North Atlantic coastline is also home to many harmless sea creatures. You’ll find sea turtles on the coast of Massachusetts every summer. There’s also a healthy shellfish population here: that’s why New England is well-known for its crab, shrimp, and lobster.

Make a great white shark your pool buddy: GoFloats ‘Great White Bite’ Shark Pool Float Party Tube.

Great White Sharks Aren’t Strangers to the Massachusetts Coast

It’s no secret that GWS are intimidating. And thanks to their growing numbers, more appear close to shore each year. If you spend your summer on the Massachusetts coast or another New England coastal area, you may have your own sighting to report.

However, it’s important to remember that great white sharks don’t hunt humans. And while sightings are becoming more common, bites remain rare. Just stay aware of your surroundings when you’re at the beach.

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