Sharks take bite out of tourists' wallets
Sharks take bite out of tourists' wallets A bin is filled with plastic toy sharks in a souvenir shop in Chatham, Mass. (AP photos)
Sharks take bite out of tourists' wallets
Lexile: 1385L

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Great white sharks are having an unusual effect on Cape Cod this summer. The sharks are being spotted in growing numbers and have stirred curiosity and a buying frenzy for shark-related merchandise.

Shark T-shirts are everywhere. "Jaws" has been playing in movie theaters and boats are taking more tourists out to see the huge seal population that keeps the sharks coming. Harbormasters have issued warnings but unlike the sharks in the movies the great whites generally are not seen as a threat to human swimmers.

Among the entrepreneurs is Justin Labdon, owner of the Cape Cod Beach Chair Company, who started selling "Chatham Whites" T-shirts after customers who were renting paddle boards and kayaks began asking whether it was safe to go to sea.

"I mean, truthfully, we've probably grown about 500 percent in terms of the sale of our shark apparel," he said. The T-shirts, hoodies, hats, belts, dog collars and other accessories bear the iconic, torpedo-shaped image of great whites and sell for between $10 and $45.

He said his store brings in thousands of dollars in sales of the shark-themed merchandise.

Tourists peer through coin-operated binoculars in hopes of catching a glimpse of a shark fin from the beaches of Chatham. The resort town is on the elbow of the cape that has a large population of gray seals the massive animals whose blubber is the fuel of choice for great white sharks. Shops sell jewelry, candy, clothes, stuffed animals and beverages with shark motifs.

A study released last month by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found the number of great white sharks off the Eastern U.S. and Canada is surging after decades of decline. Conservation efforts and the greater availability of prey such as Massachusetts' seals are credited with the reversal.

Shark sightings have soared from generally fewer than two annually before 2004 to more than 20 in each of the last few years off Cape Cod, where the economy depends heavily on the summer tourism season. Despite notices urging boaters and swimmers to use caution, the official reaction has been nearly the opposite of the panic depicted in "Jaws," the 1975 film shot mainly on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard.

Confrontations with people are rare, with only 106 unprovoked white shark attacks 13 of them fatal in U.S. waters since 1916, according to data provided by the University of Florida.

Still, officials are wary of the damage that could be done to tourism if one of the predators bites a person. Brochures have been distributed to raise awareness of sharks and safe practices in the event of a sighting.

Critical thinking challenge: Whats the difference between a spending frenzy and a feeding frenzy?

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  • LAvery-Sti
    12/18/2014 - 09:55 a.m.

    Sharks are becoming more and more popular and I think this is going to be bad. Sharks are dangers and they take the fun out of a lot of things you can do in the ocean. This is scary because I think this would be fun to do something in the ocean but I will not do that because something very bad could happen.

  • tiffanyc-DiB
    2/02/2015 - 01:34 p.m.

    A buying frenzy is when something is becoming more and more popular and you only buy it because it's becoming well known. But a feeding frenzy is when the Sharks are becoming more and more likely to bite tourists

  • Haley Patterson
    2/27/2015 - 01:58 p.m.

    When I went to the beach, people we saying that sharks do not attack unless they feel that they are in danger. If anything, I think humans may or may not hunt sharks too much and we hunt their food too much making them move closer to shore where they can feed on us.

  • nicholas.jones07
    3/05/2015 - 01:07 p.m.

    I think that Great White sharks are very interesting. How do sharks pull in so many tourist? I also think that people are spend money for nothing. They think it's some big deal when it's really just a lot of sharks. Apparently it's great for business's that already rip off tourist with cheap key chains and magnets. At least the town business is doing okay.

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