Why Shark Tourism Is Becoming the Adrenaline Junkie’s New Obsession in the Northeast

by Josh Lanier
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Adrenaline junkies and the curious alike are heading to the Northeast to get an up-close look at some of the ocean’s most feared creatures. Shark tourism is a booming business in the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s filling stores’ coffers on land as well. But that’s not why many of the tour boats are doing this.

In Cape Cod, Massachusetts shark tourism is thriving. There’s a fascination most people have with sharks. For many it started with the iconic blockbuster Jaws. However, these tours hope to clear up some of those misconceptions.

“It’s awe-inspiring, really,” Michael Simard told the Concord Monitor. “I didn’t realize how graceful they were. It does put it into perspective that this is their element, and we just share it with them.”

Simard said he spotted six great white sharks swimming beneath the glass-bottom tour boat.

It’s encounters like these and not the gory, blood-splatter-fests that Hollywood tends to peddle that are reshaping people’s attitudes towards sharks. Mind you, it’s unlikely anyone wants to get into an open ocean with a great white or a large shark. But tours like these help show sharks in their natural context.

“There’s always been sharks, but there hasn’t always been the opportunity to interact with sharks in this fashion,” said charter boat captain Mike Bosley. “They’re part of our ecosystem.”

Conservation groups hope that allowing people to safely see sharks in their natural habitat will change their perceptions of the feared creatures. Beach cities and towns hope it will help them rebrand their images as well.

“It feels like we’re on the trajectory of it being a point of pride for Cape Cod,” said Patrick Clarke, who owns the jewelry company Cape Clasp. “A lot of the initial fear and hysteria was the fear of the unknown, but we’re learning more and more about them every year.”

Shark Attacks Surfer in Florida Earlier This Month

Doyle Nielson, a 16-year-old Georgia boy, was hoping to grab some big waves churned up from Hurricane Larry. But there was something hiding that wanted to grab him.

Neilson fought the big swells as he paddled out on his surfboard near New Smyrna Beach on Sept. 8. In an Instagram video, you can see the shark’s fin poking out of the water as it approaches the 16-year-old, who is unaware of the danger.

Without provocation, the six-foot shark chomps down on Neilson’s arm but then thinks better of it. It quickly let go and swims away. Neilson said he didn’t even realize he’d been bitten by a shark. He assumed it was another surfer.

“It felt like someone on their surfboard had come full speed directly at me and hit me super hard,” the Daily Mail reported.

He didn’t realize what happened until he a friend told him to get out of the ocean. In the Instagram video, Neilson looks down at his arm and realizes he’s bleeding. The bite required 9 stitches, but Neilson said he is fine. He still plans to surf that area.

“I’ll definitely be surfing again, but I know that it’ll affect my mindset,” he told The Daily Mail. “Like, I’ll be a little more cautious in the water.”