In the whole of the 20th century, Cape Cod suffered only three shark attacks, says Christopher Chivers in The New York Times. Since 2012 there have been five. Arthur Medici, a 6ft surfer, died before he made it back to Cape Cod’s crowded shore in the summer of 2018. A single shark bite severed his arteries, draining him of blood by the time friends dragged him from the water. “That poor boy looked like a bomb went off on him,” one onlooker said.
Grey seals and Richard Nixon are to blame. In 1972 the then president signed an act making it illegal to harm marine mammals in US waters. Back bounced 50,000 seals from the brink of extinction, and back came the apex predators that feast on them. Coastguards didn’t believe two “hysterical” female canoeists who came “face to face” with a shark in 2014 – until they pointed to the 18in bite mark on their boat. They survived. Medici wasn’t so lucky.
Some locals love the attention. White sharks have become kitsch staples on the Cape, adorning hoodies, hats, bottle openers and bumper stickers. A drive-in theatre offers summer screenings of Jaws. What’s more, conservationists argue that for all their proximity to people, “intelligent” sharks almost never harm them. Lifeguards now use drones to spot them, but many people are scared to get back in the water. I used to go out in seas and storms, says one swimmer. “But it’s the end of an era now, of this being a carefree place.”
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