After deadly attack, officials plan to meet to discuss shark safety efforts
State and local officials plan to gather to discuss what next steps, if any, they should take to improve safety along the Cape Cod coastline, after a 26-year-old man was fatally attacked by a shark in Wellfleet over the weekend.
Brian Carlstrom, superintendent for the Cape Cod National Seashore, said there’s no set date for a meeting at this time, but he anticipates stakeholders from all corners will be involved, including elected leaders, harbormasters, town managers, representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and many others.
“That’s in the works,” said Carlstrom. “We’re going to get together to talk about this, and discuss ways we might be able to improve safety for visitors. But exactly what that’s going to look like, I’m not sure yet.”
Carlstrom said the discussion would be in direct response to Saturday’s tragic incident off Newcomb Hollow Beach, where Revere resident Arthur Medici was attacked by a shark while boogie-boarding with a friend.
He said the conversation could include a range of ideas, such as using different shark-monitoring technologies, implementing spotter planes or drone technologies, and upgrading cellphone towers or enhancing telephone communication capabilities along the vast stretches of Cape Cod beaches.
“All sorts of things could be discussed,” he said.
Saturday’s attack followed a summer of increased shark sightings, beach closures, and warnings about the danger of the predators. It was the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts in 82 years.
Earlier in the summer, Dr. William Lytton, a 61-year-old neurologist from New York, was seriously injured in an attack in Truro.
Congressman Bill Keating, who represents the Cape and Islands, tweeted over the weekend that he would be “convening meetings w/the National Park Service and coordinating w/state and local officials on how best to address this issue.”
In a telephone interview Monday, he said he’s been in contact with NOAA, the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to tap their knowledge and expertise to prevent future attacks.
Keating, who has several meetings on the issue lined up this week, said officials should look at every avenue that’s available.
“There is a sense of urgency going forward,” he said. “Any time a life is lost or people suffer tremendous injuries . . . we should do everything in our power to deal with it.”
In an e-mail to the Globe, Kristen Reed, a member of Truro’s Board of Selectmen, said the presence of sharks is a Cape-wide problem and needs to be addressed by all the towns, the state, and the National Seashore.
“The presence of seals and sharks in our nearby waters raises unique challenges,” she said. “It will take some time to fashion a strategy that will benefit the lower cape, but at the moment, it is our greatest commitment.”
On Monday, just days after Medici died as a result of the attack, state shark experts and officials from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy were back on the water to continue their research about the regional great white population.
State Representatives Dylan Fernandes, Will Crocker, and Tim Whelan joined the conservancy on the water Monday, but the trip had been planned prior to Saturday’s attack, conservancy officials said.
Fernandes, who represents Falmouth, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, said during the trip he saw four great whites in under three hours.
“There's a lot more of them and they are a lot closer to shore. We have an apex predator swimming in our waters and I think it’s certainly valuable to get more information about them,” he said. “That’s what today was about — talking to experts about how best to improve public safety measures.”
Greg Skomal, a biologist with the Division of Marine Fisheries who is working with the conservancy on a five-year study of the sharks, said part of Monday’s expedition would include scoping out the area where the victim was bitten, to learn more about the topography and possibly better understand what may have led to the attack.
“I’m still on a fact-gathering mission,” Skomal said. “It’s a tragic and horrible incident, but we want to try and learn from it. . . . I’m interested in all of the details surrounding what happened — specifically the physical surroundings of where it happened.”
He said he will also be looking at any similarities between Saturday’s attack and the attack in Truro in August.
In terms of safety measures, Skomal said he anticipates “a serious conversation” will be held between state and local officials on the subject of shark activity, “with all options on the table.”
“Everyone has been talking right now about it,” he said, “and you would expect that would happen, given the horror associated with the fatality.”
Skomal said people should remain vigilant and be cautious before they enter the water.
“The sharks are still there and will be there at least another month or so,” he said. “We are still at peak season. All we can tell them is, the sharks are out there.”