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Beach towns on Cape Cod brace for peak of shark season

Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet.
Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/File 2019/Globe Staff

With Labor Day past, most Massachusetts beaches won’t have lifeguards on duty again until next year, but as Cape Cod and the Islands approach peak season for shark sightings, some towns are taking extra precautions to help keep beachgoers safe.

In Wellfleet, where a 26-year-old Revere man was killed in a shark attack off Newcomb Hollow Beach last September, town officials have extended lifeguard season for that beach to Sept. 30.

Suzanne Thomas, Wellfleet’s director of community services, said keeping a lifeguard on duty there past Labor Day is one of several ways the town has sought to make the public safer, along with adding new safety equipment and emergency landline telephones at each coastal beach.

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“All you have to do is lift the receiver and you’re connected with dispatch,” Thomas said.

Wellfleet lifeguards now have a beach vehicle that runs on tracks rather than tires and can carry an injured person and four more people, Thomas said, and those lifeguards have received Stop the Bleed training for dealing with traumatic injuries. There are also Stop the Bleed kits for the public available at four beaches, she said.

All summer, she said, the town has encouraged beachgoers to be alert about their surroundings, stay close to the shore, don’t go into water that’s more than waist-deep, stay near lifeguards, and pay close attention when lifeguards give warnings or instructions.

Wellfleet also recommends that beachgoers download the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s Sharktivity app to get notifications of shark sightings in the area.

“We’re really looking for awareness and for people to have personal responsibility for their own behavior, which includes them being aware of what’s out there,” Thomas said.

Sightings of white sharks reach their peak from August to October, according to the conservancy.

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There were multiple shark sightings reported over the holiday weekend, including a great white shark dining on a whale carcass off Duxbury Beach. On Sunday, the Sharktivity app showed sightings dotting the coastline, mainly between Chatham and Orleans but also as far south as Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and as far north as White Crest Beach in Wellfleet.

In Provincetown, where there were a couple of shark sightings at the popular Race Point Beach this summer but none at the town-owned beaches tucked behind Long Point, officials are nonetheless being cautious, said the town’s acting harbormaster, Don German.

Provincetown officials are tracking sightings on Sharktivity, German said, and there are shark detection buoys outside Provincetown Harbor. On Saturday, before the 32nd annual Provincetown Swim for Life & Paddler Flotilla charity event, four boats will sweep the harbor to check for “anything unusual,” German said.

Organizers announced last month that the route for the swim, which used to start at Long Point, would be moved closer to shore because of the increased presence of white sharks.

“We keep a watchful eye,” German said, “but it’s not anywhere near as much a concern as if you go outside of Long Point.”


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.