In this May, 22, 2019, file photo, a woman walks with her dogs at Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Credit: Charles Krupa / AP

A new study released by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy showed that great white sharks off the Cape Cod coast spent about half their time in shallow waters less than 15 feet deep.

The study, published in March in the journal Wildlife Research, was based on shark tracking research done in 2017.

Great white sharks spent 95 percent of their time in waters 100 feet deep or less, with a water temperature of between 48 and 69 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the study. Furthermore, sharks spent 47 percent of their time in waters 15 feet deep or less.

The waters around Cape Cod are less than 150 miles south of the Cumberland County town of Harpswell, where in July 2020 63-year-old Julie Dimperio Holowach was killed in a rare great white shark attack while she was swimming in shallow water in Mackerel Cove.

It was the first fatal shark attack recorded in Maine and the third in New England since 1936.

Nevertheless, shark sightings are becoming increasingly common in Maine in recent years, with regular sightings in York and Cumberland counties each summer since 2017.

“If I was a betting person, I would suspect that in the next three or four years, or maybe sooner, there’s going to be a greater presence of these sharks up here,” University of New England marine scientist James Sulikowski told the Associated Press in late 2017. “Whether our area is sort of a stop-over and they spend a couple days here or a couple months is what we’re trying to figure out.”

Cynthia Wigren, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s CEO, said in a Wednesday statement that the findings should encourage people to be cautious when swimming in shallow ocean waters.

“It’s important to remember that the overall risk posed to humans by white sharks is low, but people should be aware that white sharks are present along Cape Cod’s beaches during the summer and fall and proactively modify their behavior to reduce their risk,” Wigren said.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.