Residents of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, packed the gym of a local elementary school Thursday night to discuss what many consider to be a grave danger lurking along this quiet Cape Cod town’s shore—a reported increase in great white shark sightings.
A Boston Globe reporter described the forum as “a scene straight out of the 1975 film Jaws,” with some 300 locals voicing concerns about beachgoers’ safety in “passionate and occasionally combative terms.”
Wellfleet Town Administrator Dan Hoort said the community meeting—which featured shark experts and researchers, as well as local officials—was meant “to help educate the public about sharks and discuss ‘what they can do to limit their exposure,’” the Globe said.
Brewster resident Gail Sluis, in a speech that prompted “considerable applause from the audience,” said “They’re eating our fish, now they’re eating our children.”
“No sharks or seals are worth a young man’s life—they’re just not,” Sluis said, according to the Globe.
Mike LaCrosse, a reporter at Boston CBS affiliate WBZ, said attendees were “lining up at the meeting to ask questions or offer suggestions on how to make the waters safer.”
The meeting took place less than two weeks after Medici, a resident of nearby Revere, died in a shark attack. The 26-year-old’s death marked Massachusetts's “first fatal shark attack in more than 80 years,” the Globe reported.
Meanwhile, some in this town of 2,750 have voiced concern not only about loss of life: They worry increasingly visible shark activity could deter tourists, who boost the area’s economy.
Many viewed the issue like Sluis, attributing the sharks’ presence to a booming seal population. Ideas for controlling the seal population ranged from birth control to outright culling.
Some other solutions unrelated to seals included bolstering the ranks of lifeguards and employing drones to monitor sharks’ movements.
John Kartsounis dismissed present safety initiatives as “Band-Aids”—explaining that he wouldn’t let his kids in the water anymore.
“This problem has been escalating to the point that our beaches are no longer safe to go swimming at,” Kartsounis told the Globe in an interview. “Quite frankly, the signs that have been put up on how to avoid getting attacked are almost comical.”