Atlantic Human Conservancy Forms to Find Shark and Seal Solutions

A sign warning beachgoers about shark activity in the area

ORLEANS – A group of surfers, fishermen and others on the Lower Cape have formed a group concerned about the presence of great white sharks in local waters.

The Atlantic Human Conservancy, which is a play on words from the Chatham-based Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, has met a few times to discuss possible solutions for protecting beach visitors from sharks following the two shark attacks off the Outer Cape late this summer – one resulting in a fatality.

Group founder and surfer Karl Hoefer said they are trying to reduce the number of seals, including through culling.

“My idea is to remove them from north of Monomoy Island and try to contain them with maybe boat patrols and try to contain them in the Monomoy Island region,” Hoefer said.

The seal population in the region has blown up after the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the early 1970s. Tens of thousands of the seals are now in Nantucket Sound. Muskeget Island off Nantucket is the largest breeding ground for grey seals in the country.

“We are still in the planning stages and we may come up with some kind of citizen’s petition,” Hoefer said. “We want to get an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. That would be the ultimate goal.”

Hoefer said many people who enjoy the waters off the Outer Cape for surfing and other recreational activities are nervous.

“There are people like me who are waiting now until the winter,” he said. “It’s become uncomfortable. Everyone who goes to the beach now has sharks on their minds.”

The Conservancy also includes participation and representation from local commercial fishermen who have also expressed concerns.

“They are about as fed up as we are,” Hoefer said. “We just see it as a problem that needs to be dealt with.”

Hoefer said there should be more of a proactive approach to the presence of sharks in local waters, and less reaction to individual incidents.

The Conservancy’s next meeting is November 14 at Snow Library in Orleans at 6 p.m.

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