On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy hosted a shark working group meeting.
The meeting brought together shark experts from MA Division of Marine Fisheries, UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science & Technology, and University of Florida along with public safety professionals from Cape Cod National Seashore and the towns of Chatham, Orleans, Wellfleet, Truro, Provincetown, Eastham, Dennis, Barnstable, Scituate and Plymouth. The group met to discuss the details of the recent shark incidents off Outer Cape beaches as well as a variety of possible life-saving preventative measures moving forward.
The working group discussed challenges related to shark incidents including limited cell service, incidents occurring after the summer season and/or after hours on ocean facing beaches.
The many topics discussed include how to get reliable cell phone service at the beaches, training and equipping the public with “Stop the Bleed” training and individual shark bite medical kits, continued public safety education, reaching out to, and engaging the the cape hotel/motel and rental community in the safety conversation, purchasing additional ATV/Gator type vehicles that will provide a more efficient way to get the injured off the beach to the ambulance, and various shark detection technologies that are being explored worldwide.
Of concern to the working group was a number of swimmers and surfers were observed in the water ignoring the water closures following the fatal encounter at Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet. The working group acknowledges that it cannot eliminate all risk but is committed to continue to collaborate on shark knowledge and safety efforts.
Dr. Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries explained how a more detailed understanding of coastal topography would help to better understand the nearshore movement of sharks and how the apex predators are utilizing beach areas.
George Burgess former longtime shark program director at the University of Florida made suggestions to the group that included developing seasonal trauma centers on the outer cape.
The shark working group next meeting will occur the third week of October.