Home / National News / Surge in shark sightings off Cape Cod prompts drastic response by local lawmaker


(CAPE COD, Mass.) — Two recent great white shark sightings off Cape Cod in Massachusetts have prompted a local official to propose a controversial public safety measure.

A great white shark on Monday was caught on camera attacking a seal near swimmers at Nauset Beach. And just two days later, a paddleboarder had a close encounter with a great white at another beach fewer than 13 miles away from the first sighting.

“I heard a lot of screaming and yelling,” surfer Nisi Schlinger told ABC News.

On Wednesday, Cleveland Bigalow, 69, was paddleboarding at Marconi beach in Wellfleet when a shark took a bite out of his board. Luckily, the man was unharmed, beach officials said.

According to Cape Cod National Seashore, part of the National Park Service, the incident occurred during high tide in 3-foot-deep water, approximately 30 yards away from where seals were observed swimming.

“It actually launched [Bigalow] in the air, and he got right back up on his paddleboard and paddled to the shore,” chief ranger Leslie Reynolds told ABC News.

Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty announced a shark hazard mitigation strategy on Tuesday that would involve catching and killing great white sharks.

“I think we’ve been extraordinarily lucky to this point that it has not been someone’s child or a person being maimed or killed,” Beaty told ABC Boston affiliate WCVB-TV. “We need to start addressing the problem because it’s going to only get worse in the years ahead.”

Beaty described in a press release how his proposal would work: It “entails use of baited drum lines being deployed near popular beaches using hooks designed to catch great white sharks. Large sharks found hooked but still alive are shot and their bodies discarded at sea. This is a targeted, localized, shark hazard mitigation strategy.”

But the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC) disagreed with the proposed strategy, saying it is “ill-considered, indiscriminate and will not influence beach safety.”

AWSC also noted that this same tactic has been tried before in Western Australia without success. The program was later terminated by the Australian Environmental Protection Authority.

Experts recently told ABC News that the influx of shark sightings off the coast of Massachusetts was a sign of a growing and healthy ecosystem as a result of the return of grey seals in the area.
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