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Idea of the Day: Why Dogfish Are Not Good News for Cape Cod Fishermen

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The dust is still settling on the Discovery Channel’s favorite time of year: the annual, sensationalist “Shark Week,” an orgy of fins, teeth, thrumming cello riffs, and record ratings. And as the mini-controversy roiled over the network’s decision to kick off its programming with a mockumentary about a prehistoric megalodon shark, a couple of real-life shark species have spent their summers presenting challenges to beachgoers and fishermen alike in the swank, seaside town of Chatham, Massachusetts.

Perched at the elbow of Cape Cod, Chatham canoodles with the likes of Martha’s Vineyard; Kennebunkport, Maine; and the Hamptons on the Northeast’s list of summer utopias for the well-heeled. Yet Chatham is increasingly becoming known for the party crashers that have taken up residence in their own summer homes just off the shore of some of the Cape’s most popular beaches. Great white sharks, likely drawn by a veritable buffet made up of increasingly large populations of grey and harbor seals, are now an annual presence. At times they swim “within 100 feet” of the beach.

The great white needs no introduction. It’s been described as the ocean’s apex predator and spawned “Jaws,” one of the most famous horror movies in cinematic history. Yet if you ask Chatham’s commercial fishermen about sharks, you’re more likely to get an earful about a far-smaller and less-threatening species: the spiny dogfish.

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