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There's Only One Sure Way to Avoid a Shark Attack

Research for Cape Cod finds no perfect tech solution
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2019 6:32 PM CDT
Steve McFadden, 49, gazes at a Cape Cod beach in 2018. The beach was closed after a shark attack.   (AP Photo/William J. Kole, File)

(Newser) – A 192-page report commissioned by Cape Cod communities advises that the only foolproof way to avoid being attacked by a shark is to stay on land. Technology can help, but there's no device yet that can protect swimmers, the Woods Hole Group said, and just knowing sharks are in the water isn't enough. "Modifying human behavior may be the most effective form of mitigating shark-human interaction," said the report, which the Wall Street Journal reports was released Wednesday. Once someone decides to get in the water, it said, “There is no solution available that can ensure 100% safety." Local officials in Massachusetts, hesitant to buy expensive technology that might only give swimmers a false sense of security, didn't argue the findings. "If we are going to do something, we need to make certain it works," said the town manager of Truro.

The environmental consulting organization did suggest a few steps that can be taken onshore, per WBUR: Hire more lifeguards to keep an eye out, train more people to tend wounds from sharks, improve beach communication and keep up the public awareness campaigns. Truro said improving the cellphone signal at beaches is a priority. But nets, culling the seal herd or seal contraception aren't practical solutions, the $50,000 study found. The group considered 27 possible steps but ruled out sonar-detection systems as not effective and barriers as possibly harming other ocean creatures and sending surfers elsewhere. One Cape Cod resident who advocates for better shark surveillance still wants to test drones and other technology that might improve over time. “I hope we don’t allow this to be all the reasons not to do something,” she said. (Read more shark attack stories.)

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