CAPE COD, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — A study released Wednesday said there are "no silver bullet solutions to ensure safety" as the population of sharks off Cape Cod continues to grow.
Instead, the report makes the case for education and outreach to reduce the chances of unprovoked shark attacks.
“Basically what they’re saying is continue to do exactly what has been done, which is just telling people not to swim,” Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty said. “Trying to change human behavior than protect us from the sharks.”
The growing population of gray seals in Cape Cod since federal protections were granted in 1972 have may have been a factor in attracting the large number of sharks in the area.
“The aggregation of white sharks off the coast of Cape Cod is one of only a handful of ‘hotspots’ in the world and unique along the east coast of the U.S.,” Dr. Greg Skomal, of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, said in a statement.
This means, according to Skomal, that “Massachusetts and, in particular, the towns on Cape Cod are faced with a growing potential for negative interactions” between sharks and swimmers in coastal waters.
There have been 11 recorded unprovoked shark attacks on humans in Massachusetts since the mid-1700s, four of which happened between 2012 and 2018.
The most recent unprovoked attack in 2018 resulted in a fatality.
The $50,000 study, conducted by the Woods Hole Group, was funded by six Outer Cape towns, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, and the Cape Cod National Seashore.
“Helping to fund the Woods Hole Group project was the appropriate next step to analyze the alternatives based on the Cape’s unique coastal environment,” the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy said in a statement.
The study also addressed technology-based alternatives that could potentially assist in promoting safety measures and research, such as drones for spotting sharks, or bottom-mounted sonar devices. However, it said that none of those alternatives would guarantee safety for swimmers.