Great white sharks spotted off beaches in Chatham on Thursday; one was 50 yards offshore

A great white shark swims near seals off Chatham on Thursday.
A great white shark swims near seals off Chatham on Thursday.

Two great white sharks were spotted off the coast of Chatham on Thursday, the first documented sightings of the 2012 summer season, according to the Sandwich-based Cape Cod Shark Hunters.

“I spotted a couple yesterday,” spotter pilot George Breen said today. “One was about a quarter-mile offshore and the bigger of the two was about 50 yards off.”

Breen discovered the sharks during his routine spotting flight Thursday afternoon. He said the bigger one was 16 feet long, likely weighed more than 2,000 pounds, and was hunting seals near the shore.

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“We know the areas where they hang out,” Breen said. “Basically, they hang out with the seals … their food source.”

On the Shark Hunters’s website, the group advised beachgoers to be aware of their surroundings and use caution in the water.

“The shark was located just north of the Chatham Harbor inlet in close proximity to popular swimming beaches,” the group said of its discovery on Thursday. “The sharks have returned to the area so swimmers are asked to use caution.”

The Cape Cod Shark Hunters have been tagging sharks off the Cape since 2009 and work closely with the state Division of Marine Fisheries.

Breen, a retired Delta Airlines pilot who has been spotting fish for more than 40 years, said the group plans to spot and tag sharks as often as the weather permits.