Cape Cod, Sharks, and a New Reality

Will a swimmer’s death from a great white shark attack—the first in over 80 years—forever change vacations on the Cape?

Cape Cod, Sharks, and
a New Reality

Will a swimmer’s death from a great white shark attack—the first in over 80 years—forever change vacations on the Cape?

Last summer’s deadly shark attack on a swimmer at one of Cape Cod’s most popular beaches forced Cape officials to confront some difficult questions: Will vacationers keep coming back if they’re nervous about lurking great whites? Will some people migrate toward the safety of the kettle ponds and away from the ocean? Are there new technologies that might prevent future attacks and make the beaches safer—or that could help a victim in the event of another attack? And if it were possible to make the seals go away, would that solve the shark problem? With summer around the corner, how those questions are answered could determine the future of this New England tourist treasure.

In this series

  • A White Shark swims off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

    Part 1 Sharks Return to the Spotlight. So Does Greg Skomal

    Cape Cod has a great white shark problem.Greg Skomal has a math problem. Since 2009, the program manager and senior scientist for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has studied the great white sharks coming to the Cape in increasing numbers each July through October to feed on the burgeoning seal population. For the last […]

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  • A BU expert suggests businesses avoid “shark tourism,” like this artwork in a Chatam store in 2017, after last summer’s tragedy. Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

    Part 2 Will Sharks Scare, or Attract, Cape Cod Tourists?

    You’re more likely to be crushed by an office vending machine than to die by shark attack. But don’t bother Cape Cod tourism officials with trivia like that, as they’ve spent the past eight months hoping that the first fatal attack on their beaches since 1936 won’t scare swimmers, families, surfers, day-trippers, and summer renters […]

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  • Part 3 Why You Should Keep a Tourniquet in Your Beach Bag

    When it comes to mangled extremities, Peter Burke and Tracey Dechert have seen their share. They’ve operated on people with grave limb injuries from car crashes, motorcycle accidents, dog attacks, and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. This is, after all, what trauma surgeons at Boston Medical Center do. But there is one type of injury […]

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  • Stairs leading to Great Pond, one of a few freshwater ponds in Wellfleet. (Photo by Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

    Part 4 What if Sharks Scare Cape Cod Beachgoers to the Fragile Kettle Ponds?

    Wellfleet—On a cold gray morning in late March, John Portnoy, a 70-year-old surfer and retired Cape Cod National Seashore conservation ecologist, looks out on Gull Pond and reflects on last summer’s shark attack that killed a boogie boarder at an ocean beach just two miles away. Portnoy, a wiry man in jeans and a gray […]

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  • South Africa is one place where anti-shark netting has been widely deployed. Photo by Stuart Philpott / Alamy Stock Photo

    Part 5 Nets, Smells, Sounds, and Technologies That Might Protect Us from Sharks

    We vacation in places like Cape Cod to escape the technology that rules our lives, but technology may ultimately help keep the Cape’s beaches safe for swimming and surfing for generations to come. Last September’s fatal great white shark attack on 26-year-old Arthur Medici in Wellfleet added urgency to the search for ways to protect […]

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