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Great white sharks spotted off Chatham coast

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

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

“I spotted a couple yesterday,” spotter pilot George Breen said Friday. “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 larger shark was 16 feet long, likely weighed more than 2,000 pounds, and was hunting seals near the shore.

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

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On the Shark Hunters 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 Thursday. “The sharks have returned to the area, so swimmers are asked to use caution.”

Daniel Tobin, Chatham’s director of parks and recreation, said the town will monitor the sharks but does not plan to close any beaches.

“We’re aware that there are sharks off the waters of Chatham, and we’re keeping an eye on things,” he said. “We’re still evaluating the situation; we haven’t closed any beaches, and we don’t expect to imminently unless more data proves it prudent.”

Tobin said the sharks were spotted Thursday near North Beach Island, part of the Nauset Beach chain.

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

“Not only is he helpful for us in terms of telling us where and when he sees sharks so we can use that information to go ahead and implement our research program and tag the sharks,” said Greg Skomal, the state’s top shark researcher, “we also share the information with the harbor master, and he then uses it as he sees fit to make decisions about beach management.”

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Breen, a retired Delta Air Lines 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.


Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Colin­AYoung.