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Lower Cape Group Meets to Discuss Shark Mitigation Alternatives Analysis

On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, the Town of Wellfleet hosted a meeting with the Woods Hole Group to discuss a proposed shark and human mitigation alternatives analysis project.

The meeting brought together Town Managers and public safety officials from the Towns of Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown, along with representatives from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and Representative Sarah Peake's Chief of Staff.

The group discussed implementing the following actionable items in 2019: Improve communications at the beaches by installing emergency call boxes, expand lifeguard presence, increase the number of Emergency Medical Technicians on beaches, continue public education and outreach, provide first-aid training for community members and staff, reduce, to the extent possible, emergency response time, and expand white shark research.

The focus of the group's discussion was shark and human mitigation alternatives that have been identified by the group as strategies tried or implemented around the world and proposed by the community during public forms. The Woods Hole Group will be undertaking an independent review of emerging technologies and strategies by analyzing all proposed alternatives.  

The list of alternatives to be analyzed include:

Tech-based Alternatives

•       Tagging (Acoustic & Satellite)

•       Real-Time Alert (App-based, Alarm-based)

•       Visual Detection (Drones, Balloons, Spotter Plane, Towers)

•       Remote Detection (Buoy-based Sonar, Artificial Intelligence-Machine Learning)

•       Shark repellents (Magnetic / Electric / Acoustic Deterrent, including Wearable or, Surfboard-Mounted Technology, Orca recordings)

•       Adaptive Camouflage (Boards, Wetsuits)

Barrier-based Alternatives

·      Rigid Plastic Mesh Enclosures

·      Netted Enclosures

·      Bubble ‘Nets’

·      Simulated Kelp Forests

·      Magnetic Post Array

Biological-based Alternatives

·      Shark and / or Seal Culling, Indigenous Harvest

·      Seal Contraception

·      (Smart) Drum Lines

·      Chemical Repellants, including substances that mimic the smell of dead sharks to repel sharks and dead seals to repel seals

Human Behavior

·      Risk-based decision making

The group is seeking additional public feedback to ensure that all strategies are considered prior to the project start date. The public is encouraged to participate in a five-day survey period, February 15 - 19, 2019, to provide input on alternatives that are not already included in the scope of the project. Click HERE to participate in the survey.

The Woods Hole Group shark and human mitigation alternatives analysis project is scheduled to begin February 22, 2019. Once complete, the findings will be shared with the public and decisions to implement any strategy will be made at the individual town level.

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Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Hires Staff Scientist

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is pleased to announce the hiring of its first staff scientist.

An experienced fisheries biologist with expertise in shark-related research, Megan Winton joins the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC) at a time when public interest in great white sharks is at an all-time high and seaside communities wrestle with how to best manage the presence of sharks in area waters.

“Over the last six year we have learned a significant amount about white sharks in the Northwest Atlantic, but there are still gaps in our understanding of the species. With the hiring of Megan, we will be able to expand and accelerate critical research along our coast," said AWSC Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Wigren.

“With Megan spearheading the Conservancy's efforts, we are better equipped to collaborate, facilitate and lead," Wigren said. "She brings tremendous quantitative skills to the table and her expertise will provide valuable input as the state and local communities look to balance public safety and conservation.”

For her part, Winton said she is thrilled to join the AWSC at a time when there is heightened interest in great white sharks.

“I am passionate not just about scientific research but applying the best available science to inform fisheries management and conservation efforts. That’s at the heart of the Conservancy’s mission so we’re really a perfect match,” Winton said.

For the past decade, Winton’s research has focused on the collection and analysis of ecological data needed to assess the status of marine populations -- from ageing and reproductively staging elasmobranchs and bony fishes, to modeling satellite and acoustic tagging data, to designing and analyzing surveys used as the basis for estimating population sizes. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where she has been developing and applying statistical methods to improve understanding of white shark and loggerhead sea turtle populations in the northwest Atlantic.

Before deciding to pursue her Ph.D., Megan worked at several research institutions in the region, including the Coonamessett Farm Foundation and NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Megan earned her M.S. in Marine Science at California State University’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratory and received her B.S. in Biology from Emory University. 

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Shark Bite First Aid

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC) is pleased to announce a partnership with the Town of Orleans Fire Rescue and Natural Resource Department to provide local surfers and the wider community with 'Stop the Bleed' training that will teach people lifesaving skills. The training sessions, which will be free and open to the general public, will be led by Orleans Fire Rescue beginning on October 18.

The 'Stop the Bleed' program was initiated by a federal interagency workgroup to empower the general public to make a difference in a life-threatening emergency by teaching them the basic techniques of bleeding control. Orleans Fire Rescue, Orleans Natural Resource Department and AWSC are implementing this proactive public training program in response to the two white shark encounters that occurred off the Outer Cape this season, one resulting in a fatality.  

"First response plays a critical role in saving lives. The quick response of two nurses and other willing bystanders who sprang into action on the beach helped save the life of William Lytton after he was bitten by a white shark off Truro," explained Tony Pike, Orleans Fire Chief.

"Even though shark bites are rare, the international shark attack files note that the majority happen to surface recreationalists, which includes surfers, windsurfers, and boogie boarders," said Cynthia Wigren, Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Chief Executive Officer. "We know from local research that the number of white sharks off our coast is high in September and October, during a time when surfers are still out on the water. With no lifeguards or EMTs on the beaches this time of year, a surfer will be dependent on the response of the person(s) nearest to him/her in the event of a shark bite."

Nate Sears, Orleans Natural Resource Manager said, "Most white shark bite victims survive because of first aid initiated from bystanders. If you are a member of the beach community, please take advantage of this opportunity for the free training. You could save a life.”

Local surfer and owner of Vec Surfboards in Orleans shared, "In addition to continuing to explore preventative measures, it's important that surfers are trained to respond to a shark bite. I've completed the training and encourage everyone to go through it as well."

Training sessions are free and open to the public. Courses will be led by Orleans Fire Rescue and offered on October 18, November 1 and November 8 from 7 pm - 8 pm at Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's Shark Center in Chatham. Offering 'Stop the Bleed' training across the lower Cape is an initiative of the regional shark working group. The Town of Wellfleet is offering training on October 19th, with additional town schedules to follow. To register visit: www.atlanticwhiteshark.org/public-safety.

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