Cape Residents Hear Results of Shark Study, Ask for More Action

Oct 17, 2019

About 200 Outer Cape residents and concerned citizens attended a community meeting at Nauset High School on Thursday to learn more about the recently released, long-awaited shark study conducted by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and the National Seashore about shark mitigation strategies.

The lengthy report detailed a number of different shark deterrents, like physical barriers and shark detection buoys, but in the end, concluded that the most reliable way to prevent shark attacks on humans was to change human behavior. Residents, however, said they were disappointed by the report. 

"I’ve heard a couple times that none of the alternatives were effective,

There are very few guarantees in life, air bags aren’t 100 percent effective, but people still get in their cars," Wellfleet resident Bob Wagner said. "It would seem to me that this 100 percent guaranteed test is too high a bar here, and that we should be looking at things that can be effective, as was talked about earlier, surveillance and detection, getting people out of the water, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater because it’s not 100 percent effective or it’s not a guarantee."

Brian Carlstrom, superintendent of the National Seashore assured residents that the report is just the first step in looking at next steps to address shark safety, and that just because the report has said some strategies were not fully guaranteed did not mean towns wouldn't necessarily try them. 

And Brewster resident Jim Papadonis, who is also a board member of the Cape Cod Ocean Community, said the overall tone of the report was not what he expected. 

"I feel like we need a sense of urgency around this, and the report to me felt more on why we can’t do things," Papadonis said. "Again the question is what other next steps might be happening and at the National Seashore, can we get a sense of urgency?" 

Town officials say they will continue to solicit input from the community about next steps, and more immediately, say they will be looking into improving cell phone service at beaches and providing more shark education opportunities. Governor Charlie Baker has earmarked $195,000 to go towards Cape towns for shark safety efforts. 

"Whether we pick a pilot town to try something in, we would also probably unite and ask for more help from the state. The fabulous delegation that we have on the Cape got us money really quickly: you asked, they gave," said Eastham town administrator Jackie Beebe. "So I think we have to continue to work together and use all those pieces. But it's complicated."