Shark attack concerns could take bite out of Cape Cod tourism

Published on Friday, 24 May 2019 19:34
Written by The Associated Press

WELLFLEET, Mass. (AP) - As Cape Cod’s tourist season gets underway, there’s uncertainty after two shark attacks - including Massachusetts’ first fatal attack since 1936 - rattled beachgoers last year and sparked a still unresolved debate about how the vacation destination should respond.

Among the questions on many minds this Memorial Day holiday weekend: Will there be more attacks? Will the region’s billion-dollar tourism economy take a hit as scared beachgoers stay away? And is there anything that can be done to make the sea safer?

At Longnook Beach in Truro, where a New York man was badly mauled by a shark but survived on Aug. 15, resident Beckett Rotchford said he’ll likely skip the boogie boarding this summer and stick to swimming at lifeguard-monitored beaches rather than more secluded stretches of sand like Longnook.

But he isn’t in favor of some of the more drastic measures pushed by some, such as shark barriers around popular swimming beaches.

“That’s their habitat. We can’t restrict their ability to swim,” Rotchford said as he walked along the shore with his dog. “I think we can coexist, but occasionally attacks happen. It’s just the reality.”

At Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet, where 26-year-old Arthur Medici was killed by a shark while boogie boarding Sept. 15, Brewster resident Leslie Young said she’d be open to somehow limiting the seal population that draws the sharks in the first place. Town officials are studying a range of controversial measures, including administering contraception to seals or outright culling them.

But Young’s niece, Ashley Frisbee, wasn’t so sure.

“That’s ridiculous. The sharks are the ones feeding on them,” the 25-year-old Oklahoma City resident said of the seals. “They shouldn’t be punished.”

Frisbee said she briefly waded into the ocean earlier in the week and says she would have ventured out farther had the water not been so chilly.

“I’d definitely be cautious,” she said, while her family paused at an informal memorial to Medici set up at the top of the sandy path down to the beach. “I wouldn’t swim farther out than anyone else on the beach, but I wouldn’t stop swimming.”

Lifeguards won’t be out at most Cape beaches until late June, and the modest safety measures promised by local officials - such as providing new emergency call boxes and medical kits stuffed with tourniquets and other lifesaving equipment at beaches - also won’t be up and running until then at a number of beaches.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Nation-World on Friday, 24 May 2019 19:34. Updated: Friday, 24 May 2019 19:37.