New report on sharks: No solution can ensure 100% safety when entering the water


WELLFLEET, Mass. (WPRI) — In a detailed report released by the Woods Hole Group, various shark mitigation strategies were analyzed.

The 106-page report included recaps and comments from meetings held within the past year.

Close encounters with sharks on Cape Cod have seemingly become more frequent in recent years. Since 2012, there have been four unprovoked shark attacks in Massachusetts including one fatal attack on a boogie boarder in 2018.

Brian Carlstrom, superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore, said “sharks have been present on the Cape forever. Their numbers have been returning.”

These shark-human interactions prompted Cape Cod authorities to take coordinated actions to explore strategies to increase public safety and public awareness on area beaches.

Among the efforts were improved communications infrastructure, expanded lifeguard presence and first-aid training, uniform signage, and modifying human behavior to minimize risks.

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“This is the first time we’ve had all of these strategies analyzed for the Cape’s unique environment, so it’s a significant document that can be used not only on the Cape but across the coast of Massachusetts,” Cynthia Wigren of the Atlantic Shark Conservancy explained.

The Woods Hole Group’s report looked at Cape Cod’s geologic, oceanic, and meteorological conditions and how they relate to sharks. In addition, 27 shark mitigation strategies were analyzed including technology-based solutions such as planes, drones and tagging. Barriers like “bubble curtains” and kelp forests were also explored. Biological considerations such as seal culling and seal contraception were also discussed in the report.

Many solutions were found to be prohibitive because of local conditions, permitting requirements, and federal laws.

“As a community, we’re going to have to decide for ourselves what makes sense to implement and put in the water, if anything,” Wellfleet Town Administrator Dan Hoort said.

The report states that since no mitigation can provide 100% safety, reducing the chances of unprovoked attacks on humans requires a strong commitment to education and outreach.

“We are going to continue with our messaging,” Carlstrom said. “We are going to be very aggressive with that. We want people coming here to enjoy it as best they can.”

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The six towns that make up the Cape Cod National Seashore will host a community meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m. at Nauset High School. The Woods Hole report will be discussed.

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