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State adds restrictions on shark cruises

Massachusetts is cracking down on shark cruises off its Atlantic Ocean beaches, worried that the tourist-drawing stunt of baiting great white sharks could lead to an increase in attacks on swimmers.

Visitors have associated the New England state’s beaches with the massive predators since the 1975 Academy Award-winning movie “Jaws,” which was largely shot on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard off Cape Cod, according to Reuters.

For the last five years, the state has seen regular summer visits from great whites as large as 17 feet, according to state records. Last season, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy counted 68 unique white sharks off Cape Cod.

The phenomenon has sparked a cottage industry of shark tourist cruises in which visitors are invited to toss chopped-up fish parts known as “chum” and seal decoys into the water in hopes of spotting one of the giant sharks.

Worried that the tours could lead the sharks to associate people with food, the state’s Division of Fisheries this month imposed restrictions making it illegal to attract or capture the sharks without a “white shark special permit” from the agency. Companies and people who violate the rule will face fines of as much as $100, according to a state directive.

California put a similar regulation in place last year.