But conservationists have also persuaded many to care about the white shark, even root for it. In 2015, dozens of people tried to save a white shark that had become stranded on the beaches of Wellfleet, Mass. They dug a trench to the sea, while pouring water on the animal, which was then pulled by a rope into the ocean as beachgoers cheered.
The shark did not survive, said Gregory Skomal, a senior fisheries scientist at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, who was part of the failed rescue. But the moment was incredibly moving, he said.
“That was a very fascinating, amazing story,” Dr. Skomal said. Still, the shark remains polarizing.
“You get both extremes,” Dr. Skomal said. “There are people who say, ‘the only good shark is a dead shark,’ or ‘sharks are like golden retrievers.’”
He added: “Then there are people who are in the middle, looking for practical solutions, and that’s really difficult to do.”
Why do they (very, very rarely) bite people?
No one knows for sure, Chris Lowe, a professor and the director of the Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab, said. Most likely, they have mistaken a human for natural prey, such as a seal, he said, or they felt threatened.
The death last month of the Maine swimmer, Julie Dimperio Holowach, a 63-year-old former New Yorker, shocked people used to hearing about sightings farther south along the East Coast. But the range of a white shark, which can live to be 70 years old, is vast. Sharks in the Atlantic Ocean will travel from Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico, and white sharks in the Pacific Ocean can travel from Mexico to Alaska.