Orleans Selectman Proposes Shark Monitoring Program

A shark spotter in Cape Town, South Africa.

A shark spotter in Cape Town, South Africa.

ORLEANS – Increased shark activity in Cape Cod waters is prompting an Orleans Selectman to call for increased safety efforts to prevent possible shark attacks.

John Hodgson is proposing a regional plan which includes spotter towers and planes, a text communication system and a simplified flag warning system.

The proposal comes after a summer which saw shark researchers identify more than 100 great white sharks in waters off the coast of Cape Cod.

“We’ve got a federally protected species in the water but nobody is actually protecting us, the swimmers, the people,” Hodgson said.

Hodgson said the Cape needs to learn from other communities across the world that have faced similar situations.

A “Shark Spotting” program was started in Cape Town, South Africa, which has the highest density of great white sharks in the world, after an increase in shark sightings and numerous attacks.

Hodgson said the Cape can’t wait for another attack before more steps are taken to keep beachgoers safe and maintain the beaches as an economic driver for the region.

The proposal calls for the creation of designated swimming areas to be monitored by shark spotters at Coast Guard Beach in Eastham; Nauset Beach and Skaket Beach in Orleans; Lighthouse Beach in Chatham; Ballston Beach in Truro; Race Point Beach in Provincetown; and White Crest Beach in Wellfleet.

Spotter planes making at least two flyovers of all Outer Cape beaches is also included in the proposal.

“You throw up a few spotter planes as part of the program and you really start to have the eyes on the water,” he said. “And you start to build a safer body of water.”

Hodgson said technology needs to be used to increase the communications between towns. The proposal includes an SMS/text based system to alert beach employees, emergency services, park rangers, harbormasters, the Coast Guard, lifeguards and anyone involved in coastal management in the event of a shark sighting.

“They are moving up and down the coast, and getting that communication as best we can to the folks that are using the water is crucial,” he said.

The development of a website to record and report sightings along with a smartphone app is another way the plan calls for increased technology.

Hodgson also said a new flag warning system is needed and proposes three colors. A red flag would fly when a shark has been spotted within the last hour. An amber flag would be used to notify beachgoers that a shark has been spotted in the last two hours and a green flag would signify no sharks have been spotted.

“It’s never going to be perfect but it’s much more than we are doing now,” Hodgson said.

The proposal also calls for Cape wide education on shark safety and providing additional funding for research groups.

Hodgson said his strategy to get other Outer and Lower Cape communities onboard is going to have to be a “door-to-door” event.

Hodgson said the Outer Beach Coalition, which was started to help with endangered species and beach management, is already in place and could be used to help.

“So even though a lot of the Cape beaches don’t run into the shark/seal issue the coalition is there and this is the kind of information and communication that we can quickly get to all the towns now because this group already exists.”

Hodgson was expected to discuss the proposal with Orleans town officials Wednesday.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

Comments

  1. Christine Capolupo says:

    Get rid of the seals. No food No sharks!

  2. How many people were injured by sharks this summer? Zippo. How many sharks have been spotted off Skaket beach since the beginning of time? Zippo. Just another excuse to spend money.

  3. What’s missing here is some sort of connection between all of the research taggings being completed and public safety. I know they will never be able to tag all of the sharks, but the towns should be given access to Atlantic White Shark Conservation system of tracking these sharks in real time. Of course, as stated in another article recently, the towns should also start funding those tagging efforts, and make that funding part of their annual budgets.

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