A fatal shark attack off Wellfleet Saturday has public safety officials pushing for increased precautions for beachgoers.
It’s the first such deadly incident in Massachusetts since 1936, and the second shark attack off Cape Cod in a month.
“Folks just have to exercise extreme caution and try to be shark smart,” Brian Carlstrom, superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore, told Morning Edition. “When [you] come to the seashore, make sure to stay away from being in the water at dawn and dusk. Make sure to stay close to the shore. Don’t go in past waist deep. Always go out in groups. Refrain from wearing any kind of shiny jewelry, or excessively splashing. And make sure to stay away from seals.”
But Carlstrom stressed that there is still relatively low risks for such attacks.
“It shouldn’t be diminished, but it’s a very remote possibility that a shark attack will occur,” he said.
The chance of getting attacked by a shark is around 1 in 11.5 million, according to statistics from the University of Florida. There were 88 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide last year, five of which were fatal, and 53 of those attacks — none of them fatal — occurred in U.S. waters. Worldwide, 2017 was an “average year” for shark attacks, according to the International Shark Attack Files.
But Cape Cod’s seal population has surged in recent years, with about 50,000 estimated to be living in and around the Cape.
Seals are shark prey. So could it be time to start culling seals?
“Trying to cull that population would be an enormous undertaking,” Carlstrom said.
He says the Cape Cod National Seashore has been working to raise public awareness about sharks through measures like increased signage around beaches, but more direct strategies, such as the shark nets used in some parts of Australia, have not been tried here in Massachusetts.
Carlstrom told the Boston Globe he anticipates a meeting with state and local officials to discuss what more could be done to improve safety on Cape Cod beaches, although no date has been set.
Over the weekend, U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, whose district includes Cape Cod, tweeted his condolences to the family of the shark attack victim, 26-year-old Arthur Medici of Revere.
“Going forward, I will be convening meetings w/the National Park Service and coordinating w/state and local officials on how best to address this issue,” he wrote.
This article was originally published on September 18, 2018.
This segment aired on September 18, 2018.