The Sharks Aren't Going Anywhere, So What Can We Do About It?
Cape Cod is known for lovely beaches, warm water, endless sun and touristy fun. While everyone has their own individual purpose, our collective raison d'etre is to provide an oceanfront getaway for all of those poor landlocked fools. It's what we do... it's ALL we do.
For the most part, we hold up our end of the bargain pretty well. When people think of a famous beach, they often think of Cape Cod along with Muscle Beach, Myrtle Beach, and (I'm taking my talents to) South Beach... not too shabby, considering that we're the coldest and the most quaint of the bunch. We're an archetype.
It's a symbiotic relationship. We provide The Summer Of '42 to people, and they give us their tourist dollars. Without us, they have to jam onto Revere Beach with all the Guidos, or go splash around in a murky New Hampshire lake with no waves. Without the tourists, people will drive through our empty streets and be like, "Why does THIS street have 5 motels on it?"
For all of American history, the deal has moved along pretty well. However, a very toothy monkey wrench has been thrown into the equation recently. An influx of seals has led to an influx of their most notorious predator, the Great White Shark.
The Great White Shark is a really bad thing to have swim up on you. They grow to lengths of 20 feet or more, and are perfectly capable of biting anything in the ocean in half... you included. It's like a subway car with an appetite. Even if he just comes up and gives you a little how-do-you-do nibble, you're going out on a medflight and the old women will be breaking out the rosary.
You'd have to be a Fool of some great magnitude to swim anywhere near where one of these things may be, and an even Greater Fool to pay $2500/week US to offer yourself and your children up as a snack to one of these Leviathans. That isn't going to work out in the favor of the beach economy with the burgeoning apex predator population.
Think of Loch Ness for a moment. The monster of that lake is almost certainly mythical... but, in any of those videos you see where they are hunting Nessie, do you ever see any humans swimming in the waters of Loch Ness? Not even in the background shots do you see someone taking a plunge in Loch Ness. If you eliminate respective probabilities from the equation, it is perfectly logical to say that two things can happen when you swim in Loch Ness- you either have a great time, or you get eaten alive by a Plesiosaur.
We have actual, tangible predators here on Cape Cod, and one of them is now known nationally after maiming a swimmer off Truro. Granted, we're more tourist-friendly than Loch Ness, but our local monsters are now dining on swimmers. Aside from a few Quint wannabe charter trips (just to see Great Whites... it's illegal to hunt them) and some t-shirt sales, there is nothing good to come of matching a tourist economy with something that eats tourists.
The problem sort of speaks for itself, but what could the solution be? I'll kick around a few ideas, but keep in mind that I've risen no further in life than Sportswriter for a reason.
Fish Net Stalking
One option we have is to sort of fence off the more popular swimmin' holes on Cape Cod with Shark Nets. These are simply a Net Fence strung around the perimeter of the swimming area. Mr. Shark swims up, gets tangled up in the nets, drowns, and doesn't eat any tourists. It sucks for the shark, but that's the way the tuna tumbles.
Shark nets are utilized in high-shark/high-tourist areas. Hong Kong put some up after 3 shark attacks in 10 days, and they are a permanent structure. Australia and South Africa also have extensive netted beach area. They are designed not to tangle, inspected by divers twice a week, and are taken down in the winter months. They even use electronic pinging devices to ward off dolphins and whales. Australia has been netting beaches for over 70 years.
However, the net thing has problems that you could swim a shark through. Nets are an imperfect defense. To allow boats to zip around, the nets have to be a meter or two underwater. They also don't make 75 mile shark nets, so the shark can go Around as well as Over. I think Under is also an option.
You also get a lot of what they call "Bycatch." If you're lucky, the nets are just clotted with seaweed. If you hit the jackpot, you tangle up and kill a Right Whale or something. Other cute things like seals and dolphins also have a tendency to tangle. Keep in mind.. experts say we're currently hosting a few dozen sharks. Nets would kill thousands of other less dangerous fish.
Throw in the initial costs and the costs of maintenance, and shark nets don't seem to be a credible solution. Hey... we're trying, anyhow!
No, the BIG Gap isn't some veteran hooker. It's something that I read in a Tom Clancy book, and it may or may not exist. The gist of it was us installing a line of sonar thingies along a Britian/Iceland/Greenland line, and using them to make it impossible for Soviet submarines to move into the Atlantic Ocean without being detected.
I suppose we could do it with fishing boats and fish finders. Perhaps Mr. Obama will give us a grant, and we can hire all these broke fishermen to patrol the coastline off of swimming areas. They can sound the alarm when anything that eats People Food swims by. Some beaches use spotter planes, and maybe that would be worked into our strategy.
There are many flaws in this strategy, but the basic concept is sound. It may be even easier once we tag all the sharks, although we'd never know when we tagged the last one.
Cut Off The Food Supply
Seals are cute, and can even perform tricks in some instances. They also crap everywhere, eat all the gamefish, and have sort of conducted their own Occupy Chatham movement. They are rude guests at best, but they have as much right to those beaches as we do. I suppose they aren't too thrilled with us, either.
Life isn't fair, and hopefully the seals would understand that if we decided to issue a bounty on them. That's how they used to roll back in the day, and low seal population = low shark population.
Beyond the outright cruelty, there are problems with this plan, too. For one, those few dozen sharks we have are chasing after perhaps several thousand seals. It'd be Slaughtah On The Watah as our sporting population takes to blasting away at Bingo The Seal, and what could possibly go wrong there?
We've already had at least one fellow shooting seals around here, and the killing was prolific for a while. From that period, I remember that shooting seals is illegal. In order to change that, we'd have to go to Washington and get some kind of exemption to the law that would allow us to drive the seals away.
Speaking of changing laws so that we can hunt formerly protected species... well, if we're gonna hunt something, we may as well go for the Big Game. Why not kill the few dozen sharks who are screwing things up for everyone?
Fishing for Great White Sharks is Pretty Illegal as far as I know. It's also illogical as a defense method, as we'd never know when/if we got the last one.
However, we could have a bitchin' Great White Shark tournament, perhaps every weekend. That'd OWN the Discovery channel for us, and would make for some awesome dockside activity.
The logistics escape me, but I'm sure that some old salts could come up with something effective. Of course, the first thing that the old salts would tell you is that, without any natural predators, our seal population would spiral out of control.
Know Thy Enemy
You most likely won't ever come close to being eaten by a shark. You're more likely to get hit by lightning or murdered by a celebrity than you are to get attacked by a shark. We average 2 every 76 years in Massachusetts, with a coastal population of over a million souls.
However, you can lower even those slim chances by adhering to a few certain guidelines. It's mostly common sense. Never swim out deep, never swim when bleeding, try to stay out of water between dawn and dusk, never swim near seals, never wrap yourself in tuna steaks before entering the water, etc...
An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure, although I should point out that the 1936 victim had about 10 pounds of meat bitten out of his leg.
Blood On The Scarecrow
Crows are sort of like Iowa's corn sharks, and they have a simple way of fighting them. They put up scarecrows. Crows run from people, so they just put a fake person in the cornfield and hope to deter the pests. It doesn't always work, but the idea makes some sense.
You just have to figure out A) what scares sharks and B) how to make a realistic version of it to run them off with. The answers are A) killer whales, and B) I have no idea.
I suppose that we could make a better-functioning version of the Jaws shark and maybe give it a Orca paint job. We could use modern remote control technology to just chase off whatever shark crosses whatever boundary we establish. If we can land a SUV on the surface of Mars, somebody should be able to make a 50 foot remote control killer whale.
We can get a grant off Obama and maybe even Romney, then parcel out one fake whale to each coastal town. We could hire some techie to run the whales around. Using them in synch with spotter planes and the previously mentioned anti-shark fleet, we could chase off anything that is afraid of a killer whale... which, at last count, was Everything.
Heck, since we're spending the money, why not make the Robowhale be able to kill the shark? We could build a badass Free Willie, and set it loose among the seals. Word would get out in the shark community, and they'd go eat Maine seals or something. Also, let the record show that there is no law that specifically says that you can't hunt great white sharks with a 50 foot robotic killer whale, so we should capitalize before somebody closes the loophole.
As For Now...
While we are taking measures to monitor the sharks and keep the public informed, we aren't doing anything to solve the problem. We've already had one person mauled by a Great White this summer, and the anomaly will become a trend with the next attack. Eventually, we're going to have to deal with the fallout, either in a lawsuit or a funeral. The stakes will be the very core of Cape Cod's economy.
Sharks have many advantages over humans, including the very important categories like In-Water Agility, Size, Strength, Speed, Sharp Teeth, Stealth, and Swagger. Humans, however, survive by adapting. We've done it before, and maybe we'll do it again.