Chatham Casts Net For Shark Barrier Study

By: Cape Cod Chronicle

Topics: Sharks

This photo taken by spotter plane pilot Wayne Davis shows sharks stalking seals just off the outer beach. Concern that sharks could follow seals into Oyster Pond prompted the town to investigate a protective barrier at the swimming beach there. WAYNE DAVIS/ATLANTIC WHITE SHARK CONSERVANCY PHOTO

CHATHAM – All options are on the table when it comes to a shark barrier to protect Oyster Pond Beach.

The town this week issued a request for proposals for a feasibility study of a barrier to protect swimmers at the beach, which is often used by families and children and is the location of town swimming lessons. The town has not ruled out any particular technology or form of barrier, according to Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson.

Selectmen voted in November to investigate use of a net or barrier around the swimming area at the beach after residents raised concerns about seals being spotted off the beach. Although there have been no reports of sharks in Oyster Pond, if seals are there, their predators could be also, selectmen were told.

The study is separate from a regional project examining ways to improve shark safety. Six Outer Cape towns, including Chatham, and the Cape Cod National Seashore and Atlantic White Shark Conservancy are participating in the $49,950 investigation by the Woods Hole Group. Chatham officials initially thought that project could include the Oyster Pond barrier, but the larger study is not expected to be completed until September and wanted to have a recommendation available for Oyster Pond by the coming season.

Proposals are due March 11, and a final report will be due 45 days after the chosen contractor is given notice to proceed.

Oyster Pond is a tidal salt pond at the head of the Stage Harbor system; the beach is located at the corner of Stage Harbor Road and Pond Street. Two swimming floats located just offshore will be included within the barrier protected area. The study will evaluate suitability of a shark barrier for the location, design, availability, material, installation, inspection and maintenance requirements, ecosystem impacts, impacts on other users, permitting and cost, according to a press release.

Barrier alternatives being investigated as part of the Woods Hole Group study, some of which have been used in other locations, include plastic mesh enclosures, nets, bubble nets, simulated kelp forest and magnetic post arrays. That study is also looking at technology such as sonar and other types of electronic buoy warning systems and deterrents.