Invisible Fence Proposed for Shark Attack Prevention on Cape Cod This Summer
Barnstable County, MA– Last summer, two shark attacks occurred in Cape Cod waters. The first was in Truro where a 61-year-old man sustained serious injuries from a shark bite, requiring multiple surgeries. The second shark attack was in Wellfleet, resulting in the first shark attack death since 1936. Arthur Medici, 26, died of his injuries. In response to these incidents, officials, residents, and activists groups are focused on reassuring the public with shark attack prevention and emergency response plans.
Two men are pitching an idea for an “invisible fence” to keep sharks at bay by redirecting seals away from swimming beaches. Willy Planinshek of Yarmouthport and Kevin McCarthy of Falmouth of Deep Blue LLC presented their proposal to the Barnstable County commissioner this week, reports Boston.com. The pair have been working on a concept for an underwater fence operated by buoys offshore. These buoys would produce an underwater sound that would be annoying to seals, but inaudible to humans. The theory is that this sound would cause the seals to head in the opposite direction of the fence, and ideally the white sharks would follow their food supply. Planinshek explained it thusly to WJAR: “If I can change the seal pattern, traffic pattern, instinctually for them to go into deeper waters, the great whites will follow.”
McCarthy, an experienced underwater manufacturer, addressed the fact that the system may not be 100% effective at shark deterrence. He hedged: “The system would not absolutely preclude that a white shark would come into the area. It would greatly reduce the possibility of a white shark being in the area because there’s no food source there.”
The “invisible fence” concept has yet to be tested. With the support of the Cape research community, Planinshek and McCarthy say that the system has the potential to launch by summer 2020, though they did not have estimates for how much the final implementation would cost. The commission asked them to continue their research and return with a progress update in the fall.
The commission members were mostly enthusiastic about the system, since it seeks to proactively prevent shark attacks in the first place. But not everyone's optimistic, since similar efforts to redirect seals using a sound barrier have not been proven to work.
As far as this summer goes, officials are doing everything they can to assure beach-goers that they are as safe as they can be in the waters. Approximately $380,000 in grant funding has been raised to increase beach protections (here's how Cape communities are spending that money). Emergency call boxes have been added to the waters where cell phone service is inadequate, medical kits are present at stations throughout the Cape beaches, and additional lifeguard training has been taking place.
Some Cape Cod residents are also taking classes to educate themselves on first aid response in the aftermath of a shark attack. Once the course is completed, attendees will be able to help in the event of an attack, at least until EMS arrives on the scene.
If you're nervous about shark attacks, keep in mind that only two people out of about four million Cape visitors were attacked last year. If you're not comforted by those odds, download the Sharktivity app on your cell phone to monitor nearby shark activity. Stay safe this summer everyone!