As seals multiply, shark study considered

A seal with bite marks was photographed at Long Point recently. - Courtesy Trustees of the Reservations

Bite marks seen on seals recently on the Vineyard, coupled with what he described as an “exploding” seal population on Nantucket, has Sam Hart, The Trustees of Reservations director for both Islands, seeing merit in a shark study. The Trustees closed Long Point for two hours last Friday, after a seal was discovered hauled up on the sand with wounds similar to a shark bite. Upon reviewing photography, an expert said it was indeed a shark bite.

John Chilsolm, a longtime shark researcher with Greg Skomal, told The Times he was “pretty confident it was a white shark.”

Recent photos taken on Squibnocket Point, where the Trustees manage a conservation restriction, showed two seals with wounds. One seal showed evidence of a probable shark bite, while injury to the other seal was too difficult to interpret, Chisholm said. 

Hart said Trustees rangers have been “extra-vigilant” regarding sharks, and the Trustees have increased signage notifying beachgoers of potential hazards in the water. He said all staff members have “Stop the Bleed” training, and tourniquet kits are on hand in several locations. However, Hart cautioned that while the group is keeping itself prepared and keeping the public informed, it does not want to sensationalize the natural predation of these big fish on seals. However, he said, more data on what areas the sharks inhabit along Trustees property and in what intervals they inhabit those areas would be helpful.

“Buoys might be a good idea,” he said, referring to data buoys such as the ones the White Shark Conservancy employs to track shark movements. 

On Nantucket, Hart said there’s been an “explosion of seals” at Great Point. He said he saw value in gathering data on shark movements between the Vineyard and Nantucket, and perhaps the Cape and Gosnold, too. 

“That would be a really useful study,” he said.