Cape Cod Group Considers Testing Buoy Made to Deter Sharks

Cape Cod Ocean Community, a nonprofit that formed after Massachusetts' first deadly shark attack in more than 80 years, is considering testing a new battery-powered buoy that manufacturer Ocean Guardian says wards off sharks with an electrical field

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As the summer draws closer, a nonprofit dedicated to finding ways to make Cape Cod beaches safer is considering testing a new battery-powered buoy designed to deter sharks, a seasonal problem that often closes beaches and terrifies swimmers.

Cape Cod Ocean Community was formed after Arthur Medici, 26, of Revere, was killed by a shark at Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet three years ago. His death marked the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts in more than 80 years and prompted renewed efforts to make beaches safer.

The device now under consideration, which is manufactured by Australia-based Ocean Guardian, sends an electrical field into the water, warding off sharks, the company said in its product description.

New data from the Journal of Wildlife Research shows that white sharks spend about half their time in water that is less than 15 feet deep, which is in the range of swimmers and surfers. Researchers recommend staying close to shore, especially when it is dark at the beach to avoid sharks.

The same company also makes another product called Shark Shield, which is attached to a surf board and uses similar technology to repel sharks. Some surfers have turned to that device to protect themselves in the water.

But those devices aren't enough to make everyone feel safe from sharks.

"My son saw one when he was surfing — it came up and ate a seal," said Chatham summer resident Tony Chandler. "I just don't let my kids and myself swim in any water where — usually over chest high."

Others said unless you get rid of the seal population (seal hunting is illegal under federal law), sharks will continue to return.

"We stick to the beaches that don't have as much shark sightings, so you won't find us at Nauset," said Caroline O'Brien, who spends her summers in Chatham. "You won't find us at Lighthouse."

The buoy device, which retails for nearly $3,000, isn't available yet. It's unclear when the nonprofit might be able to test it.

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