6 Sharks Near Massachusetts’ Coast and Beaches

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: August 9, 2022
Image Credit le bouil baptiste/Shutterstock.com
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Massachusetts, also known as “The Bay State,” “The Pilgrim State,” and “The Puritan State,” is located in the New England region of the United States. It is known for being home to the nation’s first library, among other things. Moreover, it’s popular among tourists thanks to Cape Cod

Since its eastern part is bordered by water, Massachusetts is abundant with aquatic animals, including sharks. Over ten shark species have been spotted off its coast, including the world’s fastest sharks (shortfin mako sharks) and the most aggressive sharks (great whites and tiger sharks). 

Although the state isn’t among the first U.S. states with the most shark attacks, ranking 12th, sharks were often spotted in the area, especially in the past few years, when great whites seem to have multiplied. 

What is the most common shark in Massachusetts?

Great white shark close up in the water
Great white sharks are probably the most common sharks in Massachusetts.

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Great white sharks are probably the most common sharks in Massachusetts. Although it’s impossible to be 100% sure of this since we’ll never know what roams in the depths of the world’s waters, statistics show that Massachusetts’ great white shark population has grown.

Since 2009, scientists have tagged more than 120 individual white sharks in the area. They come to Cape Cod during the spring and summer and leave the waters in the fall. Many of these tagged sharks have developed the habit of returning to Massachusetts’ waters, which indicates that they have found a favorable habitat there. This suggests that their population may grow further over the next few years. 

As a comparison, since 2004, only 57 basking sharks have been tagged in the region. 

Discover 6 sharks near Massachusetts’ coast and beaches

1. Basking sharks

Biggest Shark: Basking Shark
The basking shark is also called the bone shark, the sun-fish, or the elephant shark.

Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

The basking shark is scientifically called Cetorhinus maximus. It is also called the bone shark, the sun-fish, or the elephant shark. After the whale shark, it’s the world’s second-largest shark. On average, bone sharks grow to approximately 26 feet long. However, some reached 40 feet long and weighed 8,500 pounds. 

Basking sharks feed on plankton and other tiny life forms. One unique thing about them is that these sharks swim with their mouths wide open. Their mouths can measure up to 3 feet in length, “hosting” over 1,500 teeth. These large creatures can jump 4 feet out of the water and reach a speed of 11.1mph. Despite their size and speed, they’re harmless to humans and other large aquatic animals.

2. Blue sharks

Though not aggressive, blue sharks are one of the fastest fish and sometimes referred to as the "wolves of the sea," perhaps because they travel at such high speeds.
Blue sharks eat cuttlefish, lobsters, shrimp, pelagic octopuses, and crabs.

Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

Blue sharks can be found worldwide, including in Massachusetts. They are requiem sharks and prefer deep, warm waters. Their average length is 6.0–9.3 feet for males and 7.2–10.8 feet for females. The longest blue shark supposedly measured 20 feet, but this was never confirmed. Although these sharks are called “blue sharks,” their underside is white. 

Blue sharks eat cuttlefish, lobsters, shrimp, pelagic octopuses, and crabs, as well as small sharks and bony fish. They live and migrate in groups, and their groups usually form based on gender.

If you’re planning to visit Massachusetts and are worried about the blue sharks in the area, you should know that they aren’t dangerous to humans. In over 400 years, only 13 shark attacks worldwide involved blue sharks.

3. Great white sharks

Biggest Fish: Great White Shark
Great white sharks are the world’s most aggressive shark species.

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Great white sharks are scientifically called Carcharodon carcharias. They are the world’s most aggressive shark species, as they have been involved in over 300 shark attacks. The next on the list are tiger sharks and bull sharks. Most shark attacks in Massachusetts involved white sharks. 

Great whites live in temperate coastal waters. They are widely spread across the United States waters, including those around Massachusetts, and they are responsible for most of the unprovoked attacks in the country. 

This shark species can travel as fast as 15 miles per hour. Their average length is 18–26 feet, and they usually weigh between 2,450 and 4,938 pounds. Great whites have a lifespan of 30 to 40 years. They feed on marine mammals like sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, and smaller whales. 

4. Sandbar sharks

Sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus)
Sandbar sharks are scientifically called Carcharhinus plumbeus.

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Sandbar sharks are native to the Indo-Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. They are scientifically called Carcharhinus plumbeus. People also call them brown sharks or thickskin sharks. They are one of the world’s largest sharks, measuring between 5.9 and 8.2 feet in length. Their large first dorsal fin can help distinguish them from other sharks.

Sandbar sharks live in shallow coastal waters. They can be found in estuaries, harbors, and bays, being common in Massachusetts. These sharks feed on fish, crabs, and rays.

5. Tiger sharks

Biggest Fish in the World: Tiger Shark
Tiger sharks have an average lifespan of 30–40 years.

Matt9122/Shutterstock.com

Tiger sharks are the world’s fourth biggest and second most aggressive shark species! They live in temperate and tropical waters, common in the United States, including Massachusetts. A tiger shark’s most distinctive feature is its dark-striped back. 

Tiger sharks are also known as “garbage fish.” They’ve acquired this title because they can feed on anything, from tiny fish to license plates. They can eat plastic and other garbage thanks to their strong teeth. 

Tiger sharks have an average lifespan of 30–40 years if they don’t get caught by humans, which are their primary predators. These sharks measure approximately 10–14 feet long and weigh between 850 and 1,400 pounds. 

6. Shortfin mako sharks

Fastest Water Animals
Shortfin mako sharks are members of the Lamnidae family.

iStock.com/Alessandro De Maddalena

Shortfin mako sharks are scientifically called Isurus oxyrinchus. They are members of the Lamnidae family. They are also called blue pointers and large mackerel sharks. These sharks are the world’s fastest sharks, traveling at an average speed of 31 mph. Blue pointers can reach 46 mph in short bursts.

Shortfin mako sharks have a fascinating color pattern, including indigo blue, deep purple, silver, and white. They usually grow to be 13 feet long and weigh as much as 1,250 pounds. These sharks are apex predators and feed on blue sharks, squids, dolphins, porpoises, and sea turtles.

This shark species can usually be found in deep waters, but sometimes people have spotted them above the water. Besides being the fastest sharks, they can also jump 20 feet out of the water. Shortfin mako shark attacks rarely happen, and most of them are provoked.

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I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on real estate, nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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