Boating Safety

More Shark-Tracking Buoys Installed off Cape Cod

Great White Shark, Cape Cod

Great white sharks have been sighted as far north as southern Maine, which is not normal.

With all the shark activity off Cape Cod waters so far this season, it’s no wonder the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) has added extra technology to make sightings even more accurate.

In a single weekend, Cape Cod waters had 12 reported shark sightings from Provincetown to Chatham, some as close as 50 yards (45.72 km) offshore. The newly updated Sharktivity App has been allowing beachgoers to report their sightings, but new technology in the water is making things even more accurate.

Tracking Sharks

Also recently MassWildife teamed up with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy to install two acoustic receiver buoys off Wellfleet beaches. One floats offshore at Newcomb Hollow and the other is at Lecount Hollow/Maguire Landing. Both transmit extremely accurate data right to area beach staff.

Newcomb Hollow Beach map, cape cod map

A fatal shark attack took place off Newcomb Hollow Beach, prompting officials to install acoustic buoys.

Last summer several of these buoys were deployed by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy all across the Cape coastline, but the Wellfleet buoys seem to be new this season.

Perhaps it's the growing amount of shark activity in the area that made these buoys necessary or the tracking devices already placed in white sharks showing researching this is a popular area. Whatever the reason, the buoys are now active, making Cape Cod beach visits much safer.

No information was given on where the next buoys might be deployed, but if more sharks swim along the South Coast (like last week's Westport shark visit) perhaps there will be buoys in that area before summer is over as well.

acoustic shark tracking buoy, acoustic buoy

Buoys like this one pick up a signal from a tagged shark when it swims past.

The buoys' technology is helpful to lifeguards on shore since because they can tell when a tagged shark is swimming off the coast and where it might be headed. Beach staff can then use that date to fly the appropriate shark flag to let beachgoers know what is going on.

What Shark Flag Colors Mean

  • Black shark flag + red flag = A tagged shark pinged the buoy and the sighting was confirmed by beach staff on shore. Do not enter the water
  • Purple shark flag + yellow flag = A tagged shark has recently left the area. You may go in the water but proceed with caution.
  • Purple shark flag = There is a risk of sharks at this beach. You may go in the water but do so with the risk of sharks in mind.

purple shark warning flag, shark warning flag