By Bill Shields

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s no secret that the great white sharks return to Outer Cape Cod every summer to feast on the seals that live there and for years now, scientists have been tagging and tracking the sharks, to learn about their behavior.

Now, a consortium of scientists have compiled data that gave them some new insight into the sharks’ patterns. One aspect: the sharks come into very shallow water, and stay for a greater time than most people suspected.

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“What this study does, is it gives us a number, and I think we are all surprised by the amount of time, 40% of the time these sharks are in less than 15 feet of water,” said Dr. Greg Skomal of the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries. “From a public safety perspective that’s very telling.”

The data shows that the sharks frequently come within feet of the beach, into water just a foot deep, in their hunt for seals.

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“It really is a conservation success story,” said Megan Winton of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, “but it’s a really tough place for our community to be in, because Cape Cod is tourist-centric.”

Scientists say the bottom line is that with white sharks spending half their time in very shallow water, it’s up to humans to change their behavior, and acknowledge the presence of the sharks.

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“People have to make choices accordingly,” Dr. Skomal said.

Bill Shields