County Commissioners Seek to Bring Together Lawmakers to Discuss Shark Issue

BARNSTABLE – Barnstable County Commissioners discussed the possibility Wednesday of bringing together several organizations and local leaders to discuss the great white shark issue following the fatal shark attack in Wellfleet last weekend.

The three commissioners voted Wednesday to invite all related parties, including state and federal lawmakers and other interested stakeholders to the discussion.

The decision came after Arthur Medici, 26, of Revere, was killed by a shark off Newcomb Hollow Beach Saturday. It was the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936 and was the second attack of the summer. A 61-year-old New York man was bitten last month in waters off Truro and is recovering from his injuries.

While the county has no direct role in regulating beaches or shark issues, the commissioners said it was a regional issue and they may be able to help facilitate the discussion.

“It seems like a regional approach makes the most sense because this whole issue surpasses town boundaries,” said Commissioner Ron Beaty. “It just seems like the county, even though it doesn’t have any direct authority on [this issue], is in a position to help facilitate a public discussion.”

Commissioner Leo Cakounes criticized the Cape and Islands Legislative Delegation for not taking stronger action on the issue.

“I’m smart enough to know that individually they really can’t do anything,” Cakounes said. “When a single person comes out with an idea, you are going to anger probably more people than you care going to make happy.”

Beaty, who said that had happened to him, agreed that there needed to be more of a collaborative effort from local legislators.

Last summer, Beaty received national attention for his proposal to cull sharks.

The proposal included place baited drum lines off popular Cape Cod beaches with hooks to catch great whites. Large sharks found hooked alive would then be shot and discarded at sea.

“The sheer fact that it was on our agenda, I believe has spurred local politicians to now step up and start to do stuff,” Cakounes said. “Three have come out publicly since Sunday and Monday and said they are looking to put together forums and meetings to discuss it.”

One possible direction Cakounes suggested was to contact the legislative delegation to see if they are interested in sitting down in a workshop to see what they might be able to do.

The other option was to organize a public forum in which a panel of stakeholders would be invited to discuss the issue.

“If the public is getting up and talking to us, the County Commissioners, quite frankly, they are wasting their time – they are wasting their time,” Cakounes said. “We have no control over anyting.”

Cakounes also warned that there would likely be more deaths from shark attacks.

“It has to be addressed,” Beaty said. “And the people that have to start addressing it are the elected officials and the delegation.”

Beaty recommended reaching out to Congressman William Keating (D-Bourne) and the state legislators from the Cape and Islands.

Cakounes, Beaty and Commissioner Mary Pat Flynn all agreed that they could be facilitators for the discussion.

“We’re the facilitators,” Flynn said. “Get the people together and help them define the issues.”

Cakounes said they should handle the shark situation the same way they did the region’s wastewater issue.

The Commissioners brought together the people in charge and created a plan to address wastewater before it was presented to the public.

“That’s the only way I can see this moving forward,” Cakounes said.

Flynn said someone needs to take the role of bringing officials together because nothing is happening.

Beaty said the issue needs a regional approach.

“It provides a way forward rather than just being stuck in a rut,” Beaty said. “We are the regional government of Cape Cod so it just seems that we are a well-placed as a venue to move it forward.”


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