Shark attacks spark concern for Cape Cod beachgoers: 'They're eating our children'

The residents of a Cape Cod town have urged local officials to secure the safety of their beaches after a deadly shark attack claimed the life of a Massachusetts man earlier this month.

Hundreds of concerned locals turned out for a community forum at an elementary school in Wellfleet on Thursday to discuss the uptick in shark sightings along the coastline, and to learn from experts and officials what can reasonably be done to prevent another attack.

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Suzanne Grout-Thomas, the Wellfleet Director of Community Services, began by outlining the steps officials have taken to increase awareness in previous years, including more training and updated first-aid procedures, CapeCod.com News reports. Thomas, however, said there was no way to ensure shark-free waters.

Visitors to Newcomb Hollow Beach on Saturday stand near a sign urging residents to "Be Shark Smart" when entering the water.

Visitors to Newcomb Hollow Beach on Saturday stand near a sign urging residents to "Be Shark Smart" when entering the water. (AP/Susan Haigh)

“We cannot put anything out there that will guarantee that you’re never going to run into a shark, that no one will ever be attacked by a shark or tasted by a shark,” she said, per CapeCod.com.

Residents later pushed for officials to decrease the seal population in order to deter sharks seeking them out as a food source, either via a “birth control system” or by reducing seals’ protections, The Boston Globe reports.

Others cited the less-than-ideal cell phone service on the beaches, which could slow efforts to reach emergency resonders.

Residents, like Gail Sluis of Brewster, also took the floor to plead for drastic action.

“They’re eating our fish, now they’re eating our children,” said Sluis, according to the Globe. “No sharks or seals are worth a young man’s life — they’re just not.”

Thursday’s meeting comes following the death of 26-year-old Arthur Medici, of Revere, who succumbed to his injuries after being attacked by a shark off Newcomb Hollow Beach on Sept. 15. His death is believed to be Cape Cod’s first fatality attributed to a shark in 80 years.

In a news release issued shortly afterward, Cape Cod National Seashore confirmed that Wellfleet’s beaches – including the Newcomb Hollow Beach, where Medici was attacked – were “closed to swimming,” though surfers and paddleboarders were spotted in the water the same day.

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Warning signs had also been placed at beaches across Cape Cod in the weeks prior, around the time a 61-year-old man was attacked at a beach in the Cape Cod town of Truro.

Thomas had also said in a statement to Fox News that the town would “have to rely on people’s common sense and will to survive” in order to prevent similar attacks.

Officials placed signs telling visitors beaches were closed following Medici's death.

Officials placed signs telling visitors beaches were closed following Medici's death. (Merrily Cassidy/The Cape Cod Times via AP)

Thursday’s forum ended with officials vowing to fund safety improvements and technologies that may help detect sharks, and even said they would look into the possibility of using drones to monitor waters, as per a suggestion from a local, CapeCod.com reported.

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Officials were also open to the possibility of another forum, the Globe reported.