Are You Going To Close The Beaches?

Yes, yes we are.

A total of 59 times so far this summer in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts, just 50 miles from Martha’s Vineyard, where Jaws was filmed in 1975.

Until last September there hadn’t been a fatal shark attack in those waters in over 80 years. Now - according to some media - it’s as if it is open season on the residents and holiday makers of Cape Cod.

In scenes reminiscent of something that could have come straight from the script of the 1975 Steven Spielberg shark-blockbuster, residents are now divided on how the shark problem should be handled. Some are saying seals should be culled to stop attracting the great whites, others are saying that it is the great white sharks themselves that should be hunted.

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Newspapers are creating a continued media frenzy making a big deal of it, with headlines such as ‘Great white shark fears skyrocket as 59 beaches shut in US near Jaws film set’ and ‘JAWS OF DEATH Huge numbers of great white sharks spotted lurking offshore forcing closure of 59 beaches in Cape Cod where Jaws was set’.

You get the sense they are sharpening their pencils in readiness for a follow up fatality or at least ramping up how the area is loosing summer dollars. Sure, surf schools may be losing out with less people headed into the water, but the fact that there is an abundance of great white sharks in Cape Cod is something that is attracting visitors and money.

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Alex Norman, from Essex in the UK, is travelling there in early September and has been keeping a close eye on the shark activity, and is hoping they’ll be sticking around when he visits.

Alex said:

“It’s been exciting to follow the continued high profile presence of Great White sharks in Cape Cod, to see one - or several - in their own habitat would be truly amazing. It’s certainly more of a draw than something that would ever make us not want to visit. Quite the opposite. We need to respect them, they should be revered and not feared.”

Nearly everyday this month tourists have done just that, going into the water no further than waist deep, leaving it when a shark has been spotted.

Proof then that man and shark can co-exist and, the places that they both call home, can still have a thriving summer economy. Although there are fears that thriving summer economy hangs - like the tiger shark caught in Jaws - in the balance.

The New York Times asserts that town officials are cautious, wary of taking any measures to deter an attack that might give beachgoers a false sense of security and expose their towns to liability.

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When those aforementioned tourists have been asked to leave the water everyday, you can practically imagine seeing Mayor Vaughan’s contorted face each and every time it happens.

It’s clearly a precarious balance. Yes, we know that shark attacks on humans are extremely rare, but you can probably cut the tension of another anticipated attack with a serrated shark tooth.

Measures have been put in place though, including trauma kits and 911 call boxes.

The Cape’s six Atlantic-facing towns have hired an environmental consulting firm to look at shark mitigation tactics. Their highly-anticipated report is expected in September, which also coincides with the one year anniversary of the fatal attack of Arthur Medici, 26, who died after he was bitten by a great white shark on the leg, he was boogie boarding on a beach in the Outer Cape town of Wellfleet.

All of which means that focus on the fin-habitatants of Cape Cod shall continue well into the Autumn.

What would you do about the sharks in Cape Cod?

By Dean Newman 

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