Sharks or People?

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Seals are cute and fun to watch. They’re also a nuisance on Cape Cod, where tens of thousands of them are eating fish that might otherwise be caught by Cape fishermen and drawing great white sharks that are occasionally attacking swimmers at Cape beaches.

A man was seriously injured by a great white shark August 15 in Truro, and another man was killed by a great white on September 15 in Wellfleet. These attacks, while sad, aren’t surprising. In fact, given the explosion of seals and sharks in recent years, it’s remarkable it has taken this long. More such attacks are likely next year.

So what can be done about them?


That’s the answer from a public forum this week sponsored by the Cape Cod National Seashore, as reported by the Cape Cod Times.

Federal law protects seals, so their numbers can’t be reduced by hunting to the point where not so many great white sharks would be attracted to the area. Federal law also protects great white sharks, so fishermen can’t catch them, either.

What are the human beings left with?

Nothing, at the moment.

In the future:  Possibly tourniquets at Outer Cape beaches. You know, so if your leg is gashed by a nearsighted behemoth who mistook you for a seal, someone can run for the trauma kit instead of waiting for the paramedics to come in the ambulance. Maybe you won’t bleed out.

And maybe at some point there will be sonar buoys in the water and drones overhead taking video so you can get a warning about the presence of sharks before you get up close and personal with them.

Or maybe not.

But you shouldn’t overreact, of course. It’s not that there are that many sharks off the Cape. Researchers who just finished a study are guessing, according to the Cape Cod Times story, that “it is within the realm of possibility that as many as 1,000 great whites have come to the region’s beaches over the past five years.”

So what are the chances?

“There’s no silver bullet,” one researcher said during the forum Wednesday, according to the Cape Cod Times.

But there is:  Allow seal hunting. Not enough to eliminate the seal population, but enough to reduce them to the point where their presence doesn’t pose as much of a risk to human beings as it does now.

This would undoubtedly require adjustments in federal law and federal regulations. So be it. That’s what legislators and bureaucrats are for.

When the federal government created the Cape Cod National Seashore in 1961, it was to protect the magnificent shoreline for people.

You might get the impression that some experts prefer seals and sharks.