Sharks take bite out of tourists' wallets
Great white sharks are having an unusual effect on Cape Cod this summer. They 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 attracting the sharks. Although warnings have been issued, the great whites generally are not seen as a threat to human swimmers.
Justin Labdon, owner of the Cape Cod Beach Chair Company, started selling "Chatham Whites" T-shirts after customers began to ask whether it was safe to go to sea.
"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.
Near the beach, tourists peer through coin-operated binoculars in hopes of catching a glimpse of a shark fin. Chatham is on the elbow of the cape that has a large population of gray seals. Their blubber is the fuel of choice for great white sharks.
The number of great white sharks off the Eastern U.S. and Canada is surging after decades of decline. Conservation efforts and the 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. That's where the economy depends heavily on the summer tourism season.
Confrontations with people are rare. Only 106 unprovoked white shark attacks 13 of them fatal have taken place in U.S. waters since 1916, according to data provided by the University of Florida.
Critical thinking challenge: Whats the difference between a spending frenzy and a feeding frenzy?