Nightly News   |  August 06, 2013

Sharks flock to Cape Cod, drawn to big seal population

Thousands of seals have congregated on Cape Cod, a result of four decades of federal protection. But now the seals are attracting sharks, and some fishermen say the seals are eating all the fish. NBC’s Katy Tur reports

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>>> we're back now with an increasingly common occurrence along the waters in the east coast this summer. shark scares. and not just any sharks. dozens of great whites are being sighted this summer, lured into shallow waters by the seals they feed on. it's become a big problem in the massachusetts coast. katy tur has that story for us.

>> reporter: a summer afternoon at the chatham fishing pier . crowds by the dozens, seals by the hundreds, at least right here. on any given day on cape cod , thousands of the sea creatures can be seen sunning, where they've been federally protected for the last 40 years.

>> what do you think, alexa?

>> awesome, because i don't see seals a lot.

>> it's not just the visitors the seals are attracting. last year using tracking sensors, the shark research group tagged two great whites off the shores of cape cod . today the 16 foot long beauty is off the coast of georgia and headed north. beaches were closed after an hour after people spotted another shark 30 yards out. last july a swimmer was bitten by one just up the coast.

>> i'm not going in the water, i'll tell you that.

>> reporter: everyone talks about the sharks and how they make it unsafe to get into the water, unsafe for swimmers. if you ask the fishermen, the sharks are not the problem.

>> the problem is too many seals.

>> reporter: bill has been fishing here since the '70s. he had only seen an occasional seal, now they're everywhere. 16,000 by a rough estimate in the marine fishery's service. they're depleting an already strained fishery, and threatening his livelihood.

>> the uncontrolleds explosion in the population in the last decade, they're eating the fish. they're eating fish at rates greater than we're able to catch them.

>> reporter: they want the government to take a look at the marine mammal protection act which they say has worked too well. their idea to thin the population. a tough sell. but given the choice between this and this, residents along the cape are facing an uneasy end to summer. katy tur, nbc news, chatham, massachusetts.