Shark Fatality: What do we do now?

Christie Beckley, Contributor

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September 15th, 2018 started like any other day: tourists enjoying their last few days here on lovely Cape Cod before having to go back to their year-long homes. One particular person, 26 year-old, Arthur Medici was at Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet. He was boogie boarding about 30 yards off shore with his girlfriend’s brother. Out of nowhere a 15 foot boil erupted out of the water. This was a great white shark. Medici was bitten and bleeding profusely when he was dragged out of the water. The ambulance arrived and took the badly injured 26-year-old to Cape Cod Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

This was the first shark fatality of Cape Cod since 1936 – over 80 years ago. When somebody gets bitten by a shark, it is an accident. Sharks do not bite people on purpose; they usually just mistake that person for a seal. But regardless of whether or not these bites are accidental, they still occur. The problem is that they are starting to occur more and more often. The citizens of Cape Cod have recently been noticing the growing population of seals. When the seal population grows, so does their predator’s: the infamous great white shark.

As all local residents know, summertime in Chatham and other parts of the Cape can get very crowded. Tourists come from all over the world to this desirable vacation spot. They choose to come here even though they have plenty of other choices, such as Maine, North Shore, Rhode Island, New York, Jersey Shore, Maryland, North Carolina, etc…) Therefore, if more and more shark attacks occur, this vacation spot will become less ideal and fewer tourists will come. Though this may sound amazing to us locals, our economy heavily relies on the money from these tourists. Without it, not only would our taxes increase, but the price of our homes would lower and the quality of life would decrease.

On the 27th of September, people gathered at Wellfleet Elementary School to discuss ways that we – as citizens of Cape Cod – can improve the safety of our water. During this meeting many different possible solutions were brought up. One of these suggestions was that we allow the killing of seals in the hope that their population would lower, resulting in fewer sharks. However, this would be extremely hard to allow due to the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Another suggestion was to speed up the communication to beachgoers. This would be hard to do due to the high dunes which prevent people from getting good signals. This is a problem because not only does this slow down shark sighting alerts from apps, but it also slows down the awareness when somebody would like to report a shark sighting/attack. Another possible solution is for swimmers/surfers to wear electronic shark deterrent devices. The problem with these is that they do not guarantee safety. Forty percent of the time they don’t work properly. However, many people argued that being 60% safer is better than nothing.

Personally, I feel as though we should try all of these. Regardless of how hard it may seem, there’s always a chance that the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act will allow people to kill seals, at least until their population is lowered to a manageable amount. We should also create a notification that smartphones within a certain range of a shark sighting get without people having to download an app (like Amber and Presidential Alerts). This way people who are not aware of the Great White Shark Conservancy App can still get the notification and be just as safe as everyone else. Regarding the electronic shark deterrent devices, scientists and engineers in Massachusetts should work towards a device that has a higher percentage of accuracy than the current model.

Medici was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He did not do anything that we wouldn’t do, such as swimming out far or intentionally getting too close to a seal. Yet, it still happened to him. Sharks attack at random, and although Cape Cod towns are trying to educate the public on how to avoid shark attacks, it still happens. As a community, Cape Cod citizens need to meet, decide, and take action regarding this future problem. Right now it’s one fatality, but before we know it, the seal population will become larger and larger, as will the shark’s. And soon, there will be more attacks and more fatalities to innocent people. We need to take action, Cape Cod. The only question is how.

 

Citations:

CAPE COD TIMES – WELLFLEET MEETING

BOSTON GLOBE

NEW YORK TIMES

CNN

WCBV

NPR

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