Shark sightings boost tourism at film location for Jaws movie

Increased sightings of great white sharks are luring tourists to the US region where Steven Spielberg's Jaws was filmed.

Spotting a great white shark might seem like a beach goer's worst nightmare, but sightings of the predator are actually proving a boon for tourism in Cape Cod.

More than 20 were reported in each of the past two years, ten times more than is typical, and rather than deterring summer tourists to the Massachusetts peninsula, they have actually boosted visitor numbers, as well as sales of shark-related merchandise.

Boat trips to see the local seal population – a popular prey for great whites – are proving increasingly popular, and cinemas have even started screening Steven Spielberg's classic thriller Jaws, which was filmed in nearby Martha's Vineyard.

Justin Labdon, owner of the Cape Cod Beach Chair Company, said he began selling shark-themed T-shirts after customers renting paddle boards and kayaks began asking whether it was safe to go to sea.

"We've probably grown about 500 per cent in terms of the sale of our shark apparel," he said. His T-shirts, hoodies and hats sell for between $US10 and $US45 ($A10.64 and $A47.91); other shops are stocking stuffed shark toys and shark-themed beverages.

Gregory Skomal, a senior marine fisheries biologist who leads the Massachusetts Shark Research Program, said people are coming in hopes of witnessing the animals in their splendour. "White sharks are this iconic species in society and it draws amazing amounts of attention," he added.

Mr Skomal said sharks have been coming closer to the shore to feed on the seals, which he said have been retreating to the shore in greater numbers because of successful conservation efforts.

Confrontations with people are rare, with only 106 unprovoked great white shark attacks - 13 of which were fatal - in US waters since 1916, according to data provided by the University of Florida.

However, locals officials are wary of the damage that could be done to tourism should one of the predators attack a bather. Brochures have been distributed to raise awareness of sharks and to ensure safe practices in the event of a sighting.

"If they go to the beach and they see a family of seals there, that's probably not the best place to hang out," Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross said.

Martha's Vineyard lies just a few miles off the coast of Cape Cod. The swish resort is favoured by wealthy Americans - including the Obamas, who visited last year and are tipped to return this summer. Jumping from Beach Rd, which links Edgartown and Oak Bluffs and which is now dubbed "Jaws Bridge", is supposedly a rite of passage for summer visitors.

The Telegraph, London

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