Cape Cod beaches working on plan of attack to combat shark attacks

A Great White shark off Cape Cod coast. (Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game)

A Great White shark off Cape Cod coast. (Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game)

Safety officials on Cape Cod want you to think of caution, not "Jaws"  music when you visit their famous beaches. 

Several Massachusetts towns are taking steps to beef up their protocol to inform lifeguards and protect swimmers against possible shark attacks on their shores, the Cape Cod Times reports.

The Cape Cod National Seashore officials met last week with local police, fire and beach department representatives from the Massachusetts towns of Provincetown, Wellfleet, Eastham and Truro to discuss beach safety after a shark bit a man in the leg at a Truro beach.

Denver resident Christopher Myers, 50, was released Friday from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston after receiving 47 stitches for bites on his legs, from what might have been a great white shark. Myers was swimming at Ballston Beach in Truro, which has no lifeguards and had no shark warning signs.  Witnesses said they saw a large, black dorsal fin emerge near Myers, according to the paper.

Although it's been nearly 80 years since the last confirmed great white shark attack on a human, the possibility of an attack along the Cape's Atlantic coastline has increased with the growing seal population. In Truro, seals gather along sandbars near Ballston Beach.

The Cape Cod towns responded quickly to the incident, coming up with several strategies to inform beachgoers and promote safe swimming practices on their beaches. One tool is a marine animal picture book, filled with photos and  information from the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game's Division of Marine Fisheries. The books -- available at lifeguard stands -- aim to help lifeguards and witnesses identify sea animals when they see them in the water.

The Cape Cod Times reports there also will be a shark witness questionnaire to keep track of beachgoers' incident accounts. Witnesses can provide details about shark fins or other physical characteristics, as well as the location of the sighting.   

Improved communication also will be key in coordinated shark response on the Cape. There will be immediate email notification among the town beach officials when a shark incident occurs. The seashore also has posted warning signs alerting beachgoers to recent shark sightings, asking them to be cautious.

A Truro town meeting is expected this week to discuss adding lifeguards at Ballston Beach for the last weeks of summer. The town eliminated guards during budget cuts in the early 1980s.

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