National Seashore and Town Officials Present United Shark Messaging

Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent Brian Carlstrom presents a united effort with officals from Outer Cape towns on shark safety and response imporvements.

WELLFLEET – Officials from the Cape Cod National Seashore and the six Outer Cape towns presented a unified approach Tuesday at Marconi Beach for educating the community about white sharks.

The Shark Working Group has been working since last September in a coordinated manner to enhance education and improve lifeguard training and emergency response at National Seashore and town beaches.

The effort is in response to two shark attacks off the Outer Cape late last summer, one of which resulted in a fatality.

In August, a New York man was attacked off Truro and recovered. About a month later, a Revere man was killed in an attack off Wellfleet.

Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent Brian Carlstrom said the goal is to inform the public to be as safe and aware as possible when recreating in the ocean.

“Myself and the town managers have met many times over the course of the last months so that we can have a coordinated, consistent messaging effort to our public about ocean safety, about the sharks,” Carlstrom said.

“It’s a wild ocean and that’s what it intended to be with the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore.”

Through the Shark Working Group, officials have interacted with experts from the around the globe when it comes to shark safety efforts.

“The changes you are seeing this summer, so that we can enhance our response, are lessons applied from those experts,” Carlstrom said.

Changes include improved response capability, the installation of call boxes at many Cape beaches, improved signage, and widely distributed shark principals.

“And we all work cooperatively together at the state, local and federal levels so that we can keep the visitors as safe as we possibly can,” Carlstrom said.

Carlstrom said entering the ocean always provides a risk, but that officials want to keep that risk as reasonable as possible.

“You are never going to be, and nor will we ever be able to guarantee 100 percent safety,” he said.

North District Lifeguard Supervisor for the National Seashore Gordon Miller showed off Stop the Bleed kits that will be deployed at all of the seashore and town beaches.

“They’ll be out basically 24/7,” Miller said. They will be out after hours when guards leave for people who remain at the beach through sunset.

The kit includes an emergency blanket to keep people warm who may be going into shock, protective glasses, tourniquet, hemostatic dressings, scissors to cut away clothing and instructions.

“A lot of the surfers who are probably going to be impacted by this more than anybody have already been going through Stop the Bleed training in Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans and in Truro,” Miller said. “This kit could save someone’s life.”

Previously, there was not similar equipment down on the beach.

“It’s going to be a wonderful addition to helping us rescue people in case of a bad situation,” Miller said.

The emergency call boxes that are either equipped with cell and satellite signals, or a hard-line to immediately contact first responders for help.

Carlstrom said officials have also learned from the two shark attacks last year and have enhanced response capabilities.

“We now have rescue litters that has beach wheels on it, like beach chairs, so it is a lot easier for four people to manage one of those instead of the teams of eight we saw last year,” Carlstrom said.

A few communities and the seashore also have ATV’s that have response capability right on the beach.

Chatham Town Manager Jill Goldsmith thanked the Cape and Islands Legislative Delegation in securing more than $381,000 in grant funding for the six towns and the seashore for beach safety and awareness improvements.

The Cape Cod Commission also provided $50,000 in grant funding to study shark safety alternatives.

“It’s been a really great regional effort,” Goldsmith said.

A Woods Hole Group study, which includes contributions from the Friends of Cape Cod National Seashore in coordination with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, is looking into overall safety in regards to white sharks.

Miller said the new shark signage at entrances has definitely made visitors to the beaches more curious, particular individuals from out of state.

Orleans Fire Chief Anthony Pike said the town has deployed EMTs at beaches for seven years on small four-wheel-drive vehicles.

“The nature of the vehicles that we use is specifically so the public safety employees can openly interface with the public,” Pike said. “They are essentially goodwill ambassadors, number one, and with the open vehicles they can traverse the ocean beaches and they are accessible to the public so people can ask them questions.”

Orleans Natural Resources Manager Nathan Sears said they have noticed that a far less percentage of people are putting themselves in situations where they could encounter sharks.

“A lot more people are hanging really close to the shoreline in shallow water, even outside of the protected area, which is really an integral part to keeping people safe” Sears said. “It’s good to see.”

Like the program in Orleans, Truro will also be using beach EMTs on ATVs at ocean-side beaches.

“We are also offering Stop the Bleed programs for the public,” said Tim Collins, the Truro Fire Chief. “It’s a great program. It’s a quick class. It can really make the difference in the outcome of an individual who is suffering from a hemorrhagic injury.”

Eastham Town Manager Jacqueline Beebe said the training and safety enhancements provide support for all possible incidents at the beach and do not just address shark attacks.

Lifeguards continue to stress individuals in the water stay at depths where they can touch the ocean floor.

Surfers and other swimmers who are in water that is 8-10 feet deep are at the most risk of shark interactions.

Carlstrom said the national seashore has no plans to extend the lifeguard season through the month of September, which remains peak season for the great whites.

Goldsmith said Chatham is considering it at town beaches.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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