Our View: Sharks!

by The Cape Cod Chronicle

We get daily notifications of internet postings that relate to our communities. The results, often, are links to fluffy click-bait like “The 10 Cutest Towns In New England” or “Where To Retire If Money Is No Object.” Sometimes we get links to stories about towns called Chatham or Brewster in other states, which are always fun to read, or notices about certain celebrities who are selling their Cape Cod vacation home.

For the past week, however, our feeds have been clogged with links to stories with headlines like “Memorial Day swimmers beware! New England Aquarium warns white sharks circling Massachusetts waters” or “White sharks lurking in Massachusetts waters.”

Yes, it’s that time of year. The general fascination with sharks means that any shark-related announcement, no matter how innocuous or obvious (“There are sharks in the ocean!!), is seized on by news outlets the world over; some of the notices came from publications as far away as the West Coast and Europe.

“But,” you may be thinking, “The Chronicle has a front page story about sharks this week!” Yup, we’re not immune. Sharks capture eyeballs, and while the news that there’s evidence the predators are in our coastal waters now may be just a curiosity for someone in the United Kingdom, it is important knowledge to residents and visitors to the Lower Cape. That’s why we try to track shark activities throughout the spring, summer and fall through the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s Sharktivity app or by occasional calls to shark researchers. And while we want to make sure any salient information is passed along, we do try to minimize sensationalism. Yes, there are sharks in the waters just off shore — sometimes they are just off the beach — but we’ve known that for more than a decade, and it seems to us we’ve learned to live with the knowledge (acceptance is the best path when there’s nothing you can do to change something).

What's the danger from a little shark hyperbole? It can lead to complacency. Despite the sometimes silly shark stories coming from elsewhere, we can't forget the very real need to stay safe when in our coastal water.