Concerned Residents Call for Action at Wellfleet Shark Forum

WELLFLEET – In the wake of this month’s deadly shark attack in Wellfleet, hundreds turned out Thursday night at the first public forum since the tragic incident.

Hundreds packed into the Wellfleet Elementary School gym to hear from experts and local officials about possible ways to keep beachgoers safer.

Wellfleet Director of Community Services Suzanne Grout-Thomas began the discussion with a review of measures taken since the first shark bit in Truro in 2012.

She said a regional shark working group was developed that worked to create increased awareness with signage and public education.

Since that time, Thomas said they increased the amount of training for lifeguards and added hemostatic bandages that stop the bleeding instantly.

They also added tourniquets on the beach and on their ATVs that can be administered by one person.

“Annually we have surf rescue training and we go over the skills that would allow us to upgrade our response,” said Thomas.

She said the lifeguards also interact with firefighters and police officers. But she also said there’s no way to create a completely risk-free environment.

“We can not put anything out there that will guarantee that you’re never going to run into a shark, that no one will ever be attacked by a shark or tasted by a shark,” she said.

Arthur Medici, 26, of Revere, was killed on September 15 when he was bitten by a great white shark just off Newcomb Hollow Beach.

Cynthia Wigren of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy

Medici and another friend were about 300 yards south of the main bathing beach and approximately 30 yards off-shore.

The attack was the first fatality by shark in Massachusetts since 1936.

It was the second shark attack on Cape Cod this year. A man from Scarsdale, New York was bitten off Truro in August. He survived the attack and is recovering from the injuries suffered.

Many speakers at the Wellfleet forum echoed the same concern, calling for officials to take action to reduce the booming seal population which is believed to be a main reason for the explosion of great white sharks off Cape Cod.

They said that not only were lives at risk, but the Cape’s tourism industry could also be adversely impacted.

Speaker after speaker called for immediate action, including improving communication, adding lifeguards in the shoulder season and taking a hard look at the seal issue.

“The seal population on the Cape is way of our control. They’re eating all of our fish and now they’re eating all of our children,” said Gail Sluis of Brewster, who also has a business in Wellfleet.

The gym erupted in applause when she made that comment.

Others urged officials to look at any new technology that may be available to either deter sharks or keep beachgoers safe.

Seal experts who were on the panel warned about reducing the seal numbers and how it could impact the overall ecosystem.

Andrea Bogomoini with the Northeast Atlantic Seal Consortium at Woods Hole reminded people that there are current federal laws that prevent the removal of the seals.

Wellfleet Town Administrator Daniel Hoort said they must find a way to have cell phone communication in the event of an emergency.

“We’re also working to use emergency call boxes. That’s a commitment were trying to do in Wellfleet,” said Wellfleet.

Hoort said they are talking about increasing training for their lifeguards. He also said he has heard from state and local officials, including Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who said they are ready to help in any way possible.

Fourth Barnstable State Representative Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) said the entire Cape and Islands delegation was ready to help with funding for technology and other safety improvements.

“We are going to give you our best in these efforts,” she said.

Dave Pike of Wellfleet, who described himself as a long distance swimmer and 40 year lifeguard, said the towns should look at using drone with pattern recognition.

“If you can look from the top down, that’s so much better,” he said.

Thomas said they have a lot of mileage to cover and wasn’t sure if drones would be possible, but also said it should be examined.

Hoort added that the shark issue wasn’t just specific to Wellfleet.

“This needs to be a solution with all Cape towns and the Cape Cod National Seashore,” he said.

Wellfleet Fire Chief Richard Pauley said they would holding “stop the bleed” session that teach people how to deal with a massive bleeding incident.

They also plan to set up a forum with trauma experts.

By MATT PITTA, News Director

About NewsCenter

The award-winning NewsCenter provides the Cape Cod community with a constant, credible source for local news. We are on the job seven days a week.
737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy