After numerous shark sightings and predations close to shore along Great Point over the past week, the Trustees of Reservations and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have taken the extraordinary step of prohibiting swimming at the remote wildlife refuge area.
"Those videos are pretty troubling and no human could survive that, we know that," said Diane Lang, the Trustees of Reservations stewardship manager on Nantucket. "The policy is in place now. We're telling our visitors no swimming at Great Point. I was in touch with U.S. Fish & Wildlife and they're in full agreement."
Lang was referring to videos recorded by island residents over the past week - including the one above captured by Nick Gault on Saturday from a boat off Great Point - that led the decision. Lang said the Trustees were aware of five seals eaten by sharks over the past days. And those were just the ones that were observed.
While most local residents already know it's probably not a good idea to go swimming at Great Point and use the refuge primarily for fishing and beach driving, Lang said many visitors are unaware of the growing number of sharks in the area that have been attracted by the exploding seal population.
"We saw people jumping in the water over the Fourth of July," Lang said. "We have visitors come out and they're naive to their surroundings."
The move to prohibit swimming is unprecedented in the history of the Trustees' management of Great Point and the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. The non-profit had previously prohibited swimming at the very tip of Great Point due to the rip current - not sharks - and typically followed the town's guideline if there was a confirmed shark sighting: asking people to stay out of the water for two hours.
"This is new and needed," Lang said of the new policy. "It (swimming) is incompatible."
While shark attacks on humans are exceedingly rare - and none of them have been recorded on Nantucket - the growing shark population around the Cape and Islands during the summer months has prompted towns to take a harder look at their policies and when to err on the side of caution.
Great Point is known to have a massive seal population on a year-round basis. Interestingly, Lang said, since the shark predations over the past week, they've nearly disappeared.
"I’ve seen maybe three seals since this happened," she said. "They’re gone. They saw."