Published On: Wed, Aug 21st, 2019

Great white shark crisis: Fears skyrocket as 59 beaches shut near Jaws film set | World | News

Anxiety has taken hold of the tourist-rich state following an increasing number of great white shark sightings off the coast. Though there was not a fatal shark attack in the state between 1936 and 2018, the prevalence of the predators has been increasing over the past year and culminated in the death of a 26-year-old surfer last September. In a precautionary move, state officials shut down 59 beaches around the region this summer to prevent a repeat of the tragedy – but scientists have rejected calls to cull the sharks’ prey in order to ward them off.

Lifeguards were not naturally inclined to keep a close eye out for sharks until the death of Arthur Medici.

Head supervisor Sarah Newcomb-Baker told USA Today that she had “never even thought about” spotting a shark, despite Cape Cod playing host to Hollywood blockbuster ‘Jaws’.

Mr Medici was on a boogie board when he was mauled by a shark in the Outer Cape Town of Wellfleet.

Two months prior, 61-year-old William Lytton was bitten in the leg by one while swimming in just 10 feet of water.

It was a culmination of fears that had been gradually building over the years – to many beachgoers, it was inevitable.

Surfer Marc Angellilo said: “It hurts because you know it’s inevitable.

“We don’t have things in place. It’s just a matter of time, again.”

Campaigners have called for the state to move faster in dealing with the issue by hunting seals.

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However, marine scientist Dr Gregory Skomal suggested that a seal cull would not solve the shark threat.

There are around 50,000 seals on Cape Cod – which is a lot more than a few decades ago, but only a tenth of the total number of seals throughout the North Atlantic region.

He claimed any ‘lost’ seals would be replaced by others from the ocean.

Dr Skomal added: “Does the general public have the stomach to remove tens of thousands of seals?

“It’s a knee-jerk reaction, in my opinion, that is not likely to work.”

Until the issue is dealt with, however, experts say that closures will continue as beachgoers continue to suffer.

Marine expert Tom King said: “Before when people went to the beaches around here, the biggest concern was how cold was the water.

“That was it. They weren’t worried about shark attacks.

“Now people are definitely afraid.

“Way fewer people are swimming around, and they’re not going very far out into the water anymore.”

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