Cape Cod Great White Sightings Prompt Myriad of Responses

Lisa Schell Environment, Environment, Nature, News Leave a Comment

Cape Cod Shark Sightings

Two days ago we posted about a SUP paddler who’s board was bitten by a Great White Shark off the coast of Cape Cod.  As news reports indicated, seals were in the vicinity and indeed beach goers had apparently witnessed sharks feeding on the seals on Monday.  The paddler, 67-year-old  Cleveland Bigelow was not hurt by the shark but did sustain a minor laceration from falling on his board.

Apparently, GWS and seal interaction has been a frequently observed thing on Cape Cod this summer. That’s what sharks eat. Cape Cod is a well-known habitat for GSWs.  There is graphic video of this latest sighting that may or may not in the same calibre as those great BBC/Richard Attenborough nature films that show apex predators demonstrating exactly why they have ascended to the top of the food chain. With the advent of social media and the fact we all carry high quality cameras with us everywhere we go, more people are documenting what they see on their trips to the beach. Heck, I think of that guy who kept taking pictures of my ragged leg two weeks ago at Wrightsville Beach when he though my fin injury was a shark bite.

The reaction of a local politician following Monday’s seal v. shark battle royale is almost something right out of Steve Spielberg’s rendition of Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws.  Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty gave a statement to the media calling for implementation of a “shark hazard mitigation plan” in which, according to the Boston Herald, he advocated setting out baited hooks on floating lines near the popular beaches.  Large sharks hooked would be shot and then dumped back into the sea. Beaty said similar culling has been successful in GWS laden places like Australia and South Africa.

“From my viewpoint, based upon the sharp increase in shark-related attacks and incidents around Cape Cod in recent years, there is a clear and present danger to human life as a result of this growing problem,” Beaty was quoted in the Herald story.

So, what? Hire Captain Quint to go set those lines, shoot all the shark and then dump their dead carcasses back in ocean to warn all the other sharks out there that they’d better stay away?

Beaty offered no data or other scientific evidence to back up any part of his statement apparently. But it is a well-documented fact that beachgoers are more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the beach than they are a shark attack.  Google it.  And start with the International Shark Attack File.

From the International Shark Attack File

You are 33 times more likely to be bitten by Man’s Best Friend than you are a shark.

As for Beaty’s so called culling strategy’s success, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy said in a statement that those programs down under have mostly been abandoned because there was no evidence that they did any good.

 

 

 

Indeed, Beaty’s idea garnered a lot of negative response, ranging from the blog of a 12-year-old girl to an editorial against it in the local paper, to even Forbes Magazine.

A  Change,org petition quickly circulated on Facebook urging against this ill-conceived idea.  Mullet staff signed that petition. As of this writing, over 10,000 people have signed.

Not long after, the Chairman of the county commission posted this:

 

And it should be pointed at that, at least at this time, Great Whites are a federally protected species, along with many other sharks.  The county would likely have to go through a lengthy process to secure an exemption that would permit them to allow this kind of killing.

For his part, on Friday, Beaty backed off his initial “plan”- sort of.  On his Twitter feed he said that pending alternative proposals, his plan has been put on an “interim freeze” yet in news reports he still contends the beach waters need to be made shark-free for the benefit of humans.

That has to be one of the most arrogant, as well as ignorant approaches to a non-problem ever.

If you spend any time in the ocean, you’ve likely seen some kind of shark.  And if you haven’t, you probably know that they are always there.

We agree with the Conservancy and other groups that advocate education, research and public awareness as a way to “mitigate” this so-called “hazard.”  The ocean is the shark’s home. They belong there.  We have already done enough to compromise their living space, which in turn only harms the rest of our environment.

 

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