County Commissioner Proposes Killing White Sharks to Ensure Beach Safety

Atlantic White Shark Conservancy: White shark “Hunter”

BARNSTABLE – A shark hazard mitigation strategy that would result in killing great white sharks has been proposed by Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty.

The proposal, which has been utilized in countries like Australia and South Africa, would place baited drum lines off popular Cape Cod beaches with hooks to catch great whites. Large found hooked and alive would then be shot and discarded at sea.

Beaty’s proposal comes as a paddle board was bitten yesterday off Marconi Beach in Wellfleet and just days after a seal was attacked just off-shore at Nauset Beach in Orleans.

“This one was only a matter of feet from the shore. People had to rush out of the water at Nauset Beach,” Beaty said. “It could just as easily have been someone’s child that was attacked and bitten in half.”

The presence of white sharks in Cape waters has increased in recent years resulting in studies from organizations like the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

The apex predators have also been embraced by the region and are even promoted for tourism by towns, including Chatham.

“We’ll see how much we embrace it when somebodies child is eaten alive,” Beaty said. “These sharks are not pets. They are man-eaters. They are killers. So have to see them for what they are.”

The Massachusetts Shark Research Program with the Division of Marine Fisheries disagree with Beaty. The organization tweeted after the incident Monday at Nauset Beach when a seal was attacked feet from shore.

“This is also a good reminder that these sharks are not mindless killing machines,” the tweet from @MA_Sharks said. “They know what they want & it’s not humans. Be #SharkSmart.”

Shark Advocates International, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit project dedicated to advancing science-based conservation of sharks and rays, also oppose Beaty’s proposal.

“Culling white sharks off MA violates state & federal regs. Shark culls have been shown ineffective, lethal for many marine species,” the organization said in a series of tweets from @SharkAdvocates. “White sharks are key to marine ecosystems off Cape Cod & beyond. Research & public education = best path for harmonious sharing of habitat.”

Beaty said a public dialogue and debate needs to be started to lead to actions being taken as sightings and encounters with humans continue to increase in the region.

“We are going to have to do something about it whether it’s the proposal I put forth or some other mitigating strategy,” Beaty said. “Something needs to be done before someone is killed or maimed.”

The increase in shark population is attributed to the large seal population off the coast, which continues to grow since conservation efforts were made to protect the marine mammals.

“The problem is the sharks are not going to differentiate between someone’s child and a seal in a swimming area,” Beaty said.

Beaty said it’s just a matter of time before there is a tragedy resulting in major injuries or even a death.

“I hope to at least try to do something about this matter before we get to that point or at least try to address it anyway,” he said.

Beaty said they can be researched and tagged and studied from a scientific point of view.

“But when push comes to shove they are predators and we cannot lose sight of that,” he said.

Beaty said he is going to reach out to local, state, and county officials regarding the issue. He also serves as the county appointee to the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission and will bring up the problem during its next meeting on September 18.


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