By Staff

CHATHAM (CBS) — A new survey of tourists, voters and fisherman on Cape Cod is revealing how different groups feel about the sharks and seals that populate the oceans around them.

The year-long study funded by the Woods Hole Sea Grant showed that while there are differences in attitudes toward marine life between the three parties, more than two-thirds of respondents in all groups agreed they have a desire to “learn to share the ocean with the animals that live there.”

When it comes to sharks, the majority of those surveyed said they viewed them as a threat.

“But by large margins, respondents in all groups agree with the statement, ‘I am willing to accept some inconvenience and risk in order to have oceans where
marine wildlife can thrive,'” researchers found.

Additionally, few respondents told researchers that they are cutting back on beach visits in order to avoid sharks. Most visitors said they are taking precautions like obeying signage and listening to lifeguards in order to avoid shark encounters.

On the topic of seals, tourists and residents said they see seals as a positive for the marine environment, and don’t want to see them culled in order to manage their growing population. Commercial fishermen are more likely to be bothered by the seals, but also do not want to resort to lethal means of population control.

“Two-thirds of tourists said that they hope to see seals, while nearly one-third hope to see sharks. The majority of tourists agreed that these species symbolize the beauty and wonder of Cape Cod,” UMass Boston graduate research assistant Rachel Bratton said in a statement.

Researchers hope the survey will help them communicate more effectively about marine wildlife conservation and “reduce negative human interactions with sharks and seals.”

“This is one of the few studies to give voice to multiple stakeholders in the marine environment and to examine their views of both seals and great white sharks,” principal investigator and Salem State professor professor Jennifer Jackman said. “As notable as some differences in perceptions are, our findings also reveal shared commitments among stakeholders to coexistence with marine wildlife and ecosystem health.”

Click here to see the fully study results. Staff