Cape Cod has been in the national spotlight this summer, as shark sightings and beach closures have become a nearly daily occurrence. WGBH Morning Edition Host Joe Mathieu spoke with Cape Cod Times reporter Doug Fraser to learn more about sharks on the Cape. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: We've got a lot to talk about with this whole story. As we understand, flags are up along the outer cape and we have a lot of questions, from reasons why this is happening, to whether the news coverage from Boston and other areas is getting the story right whether it's even accurate. We know sharks like to eat seals. It's like a buffet along parts of the outer Cape. But why is it happening now?

Doug Fraser: Well, the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972 brought the seals back, as it was intended to do, from practically zero on the Cape to anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000, depending on which study you believe. That attracts the sharks. Basically, what the shark scientists say is, sharks that used to be further out to sea maybe dining on whale carcasses, fish. They just took that big left-hand turn. They are now off of our beaches, very close to shore, sometimes within just a few feet of shore, swimming amongst people who are using the ocean.

Mathieu: It's changing life along the coastline for a lot of people, and business for some others. We hear about this from the standpoint of tourism. I know that authorities have taken a lot of steps since the two attacks last summer — one of them was fatal — to have more resources available to deal with an attack. Not to mention the monitoring that the conservancy and others are doing. [It seems like] we've come a long way the last couple of years to manage this.

Fraser: So most of the effort has been to fill communications gaps [and] gaps in trauma response. A lot of that has been done. The tagging effort by the state shark scientists and funded by the Conservancy, which is a non-profit group, has given a lot more information to people who do public safety, to town managers [and] to the general public. As far as letting people know when sharks are there, it's a bit hit and miss. They haven't taken that next step into the technology that would detect and/or deter sharks. There is an ongoing $49,000 study that the Woods Hole Group is doing that's looking at those [and] trying to evaluate and apply some science to the various technologies that are out there. The local towns are inundated with offers of technology, but there typically isn't a lot of science behind that. So for the time being, the towns are taking the position that it's time to just tighten up the response [and] get better communications. The state helped with the $400,000 grant recently this spring. So there have been significant efforts made to make people safer if a shark attack does occur.

Mathieu: The tourism aspect is a big one. Doug, I've heard both sides of this — that people were coming to Cape Cod [and] wanted to have shark T-shirts and pretend they were in Jaws and soak up this whole story. But after the attack, particularly the fatal one, we heard that people might be reluctant to swim in the ocean, and therefore, why go to Cape Cod? Do we know if it's one or the other?

Fraser: So that's a little bit up in the air. There have been various reports that tourism is down. The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce released a report yesterday that said that hotel [and] motel bookings were down by about 3 percent, but the attribution solely to sharks is not quite there yet. Tourism is down in 7-10 sectors in Massachusetts, is what the Chamber of Commerce said. And there's various reasons for that. Sharks might be one of them, but there's nothing conclusive on that right now. As far as people going in the water, I think that there have been various reports that people were reluctant to go in the water. I think that people are used to following what the lifeguards do. They set up the protected area. They're on the lookout for rip tides and for sharks. And I think what I've witnessed is that people are going in the water. Now they're not swimming out as deep, and the lifeguards didn't let them do that before anyhow, but a lot of habits have changed.

But I think I still see people enjoying the water. I haven't really noticed that people are avoiding the water. I think if you looked at the big water users like the surfers, paddle boarders, boogie boarders [and] the people who spend hours in the water catching waves sometimes far from shore. I think they [are] standing closer to shore or they're heading elsewhere. They're heading to Rhode Island [or] they're heading up north. But a lot of people still stay here, [and] a lot of people still go in the water for extended periods of time. And a significant number of those [people] see sharks.

Mathieu: Yeah, that's right. That's part of life, I guess. So I guess in the end, the question that I mentioned at the beginning of all this, are we getting the story right? This makes real easy headlines — strobe light headlines for TV news [and] cable news. You've got national networks out in Wellfleet waiting for something to happen. But you're here, and you're rooted in reality. How would you answer that? Are we getting the story right, or is has it been over-sensationalized?

Fraser: So I think it's really hard to say when you have an apex predator in the water where you didn't have one before, that you can over sensationalize the fact that it's a different world for people who use the water. Two swimmers were victims. ... These were people who just went in for a casual swim and they got bit. Certainly there are people who just drop in, and they're looking for the story and they get a sensationalized approach and they haven't advanced the story at all. There are others where they spend some time here. They're generally from bigger newsrooms, and they have the ability to stay for a while and get the story. We do see national news media here quite often. There was a recent set of stories and even an editorial in a Boston paper that looked at a particular shark deterrence and seal deterrence technology. But an easy Google search or whatever would have found that that technology is widely discredited scientifically.