A new public safety report about sharks has been released by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, the Cape Cod National Seashore and six Outer Cape towns. The report looked at a number of different shark mitigation strategies, including shark barriers, shark detection buoys and the possibility of culling sharks or seals. In the end though, the report, which cost $50,000, concluded that the most effective way to increase shark safety was to "modify human behavior."
National Seashore superintendent Brian Carlstrom says the public should be aware that activities like wading, swimming, or surfing pose different levels of risk, and that everyone entering the ocean should use caution.
"It is so critical and so important for people to realize that if people are going to get into the water, they’re assuming risk," Carlstrom said. "The report does go into a lot of detail, it is going to form the baseline for future management solutions going forward, it is going to take a lot more work going forward to determine what future solutions we can implement."
He added that other solutions the study looked at, such as shark detection buoys still had variable success rates, and that the towns did not want to implement costly technolgy without the full guarantee that it would improve beach safety. He also added that because of the Cape's geography, a barrier, as has been utilized in other areas, is not possible without also causing entanglement of other animals.
Wellfleet town administrator Dan Hoort said that while it may be disappointing to some that the study didn't yield a "silver bullet" solution to the increasing population of great white sharks around the Cape, human education about sharks is the best strategy to date.
"We know that you can prevent an interaction with a shark by modifying your behavior when you go in the water," Hoort said. "As you can see from reading the report, there’s a limited amount of effectiveness for any of the various strategies that are in the report."
For next summer, Outer Cape towns will be looking at further improving communication and cell service from their beaches, and will be continuing to hold Stop the Bleed training classes. Carlstrom also said that the National Seashore will be looking at having "pop up" shark information booths at beaches, and towns will also have more All Terrain Vehicles that carry Stop the Bleed kits.
Governor Charlie Baker has also put $195,000 into the state budget that could go towards enhancing communication on Outer Cape beaches and to further fund monitoring and tagging of great white sharks in the area.
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is continuing to work on a study that looks at shark behavior both on the Outer Cape, and also in Cape Cod Bay.