Summer Survey to Gauge Local Views on Sharks, Seals

A seal barely escapes a shark attack off the coast of Monomoy

HYANNIS – Some residents, tourists and commercial fishermen will be able to sound off on how they feel about sharks and seals in Cape Cod waters through a new study.

The Woods Hole Sea Grant program has provided grant funding for a study that will gauge the awareness of the public when it comes to local shark and seal populations and their attitudes towards the marine animals.

The multi-institution study is a partnership between Salem State University, University of Massachusetts Boston, Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy, the Center for Coastal Studies, Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

“What we are hoping to do is gain an understanding of where people are at in their understanding of seals and sharks, their experiences with the species, and their views on how best sharks, seals and humans can coexist,” said Jennifer Jackman, a political science professor at Salem State and the lead.

Jackman focuses on animals and public policy with her research.

The study, which will be conducted through a sample survey from June to the end of August, is a replication and extension of a study conducted in 2016 on Nantucket.

That study looked at the attitudes of residents, tourists and recreational anglers on the seal population off the island.

“We have been looking for an opportunity to replicate the study on Cape Cod,” Jackman said.

“The original study on Nantucket was only on seals, and we thought it made sense to include both seals and sharks into the current research project.”

The survey is designed to elicit views on each of the species, attitudes towards management, and provide additional information on what can be done to foster coexistence on Cape Cod.

“It’s more meant to get a sense of where people are in terms of their understanding of seals and sharks,” she said.

Information from the survey will help researchers identify what information people have and what information people may need.

The survey will be mailed to recruited residents, visitors and fishermen. It will not be available online or to the general public.

Analysis of the data will begin in the fall and results will likely not be shared until the spring of 2021 at the earliest.

The grant will also provide funding to use the results for education and outreach efforts.

“There will be a variety of presentations and ways of sharing the results of the study in 2021,” Jackman said.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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