BOSTON (AP) - As the summer tourist season ramps up, the Coast Guard toldrecreational boaters and paddlers Friday to keep an eye out forpredatory sharks in the ocean waters off the Northeast, warningthat the creatures could easily capsize a small boat or kayak.
The shark advisory, issued by the U.S. Coast Guard district thatcovers waters from Maine to New Jersey, came several days after thecrew of a tuna boat caught and later released a 7-foot juvenilegreat white shark in the Stellwagen Bank fishing area, about 20miles off Massachusetts.
Several great white sharks were spotted off Cape Cod lastsummer, and experts believe more will return this summer, attractedby the exploding local population of seals, a favorite sharkfood.
With a hot, sunny July Fourth weekend forecast, residents andtourists are expected to flock to beaches.
Massachusetts officials held a news conference this week tostress that no great whites — the kind of shark that tauntedswimmers in the book and movie "Jaws" — had been spotted nearbeaches, and that beachgoers and swimmers should not be worried solong as they exercise "common sense" and avoid swimming nearseals.
In the Coast Guard advisory, Al Johnson, a recreational boatingspecialist, said boaters and paddlers in the Northeast generallydon't have to concern themselves with predators, and noted thatshark attacks are extremely rare in the region.
"But I have no doubt that a great white shark that swims intoyour comfort zone would surely find a splashing paddle or danglinghand inviting," Johnson wrote. "I also expect that same passingshark would spend little time differentiating between boater,paddler and prey."
Sharks spotted off New England have been as long as 15 feet,Johnson said.
Recreational boaters and kayakers should steer clear of sealcolonies or passing pods of seals, Johnson said. And anyone whospots a shark should resist any temptation to go near it.
"I can also imagine the excitement most boaters and paddlerswould have if they visually encountered a shark on our waters," hesaid. "However, things can and do go wrong on the water, and sincea close encounter could easily have tragic consequence, I recommendan extreme degree of caution."
Secretary of Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles said heanticipated more great white sightings this summer but did notforesee any beach closings.
The last fatal shark attack in Massachusetts was in 1936.
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