August is officially "Seal and Shark Awareness Month" on Cape Cod this year after county officials approved the declaration Wednesday amid a busy season for shark sightings.
The Cape has already seen a record number of shark taggings this far into summer and beaches are being temporarily closed for shark sightings on an almost daily basis, including three straight days this week.
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“I believe that this measure will help to facilitate public safety via a regional approach, which is essential because the situation involving the sharks and seals concerns all of Cape Cod, not just one segment of it,” said Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty in a statement.
The proposal was intended to bring much-needed awareness to the threat that sharks pose and incentivize elected officials and special interest groups to address public health and safety, according to the two Cape Cod residents who put it forward, John Kartsounis and Drew Taylor.
However, the vote was not free of controversy. Chairman Ronald Bergstrom voted against the measure, saying that Barnstable County hasn't approved of similar measures in the past, according to The Cape Cod Times.
"We are in danger of creating a vehicle by which this debate could continue in a very undisciplined way," said Bergstrom, accusing Kartsounis and Taylor of having an agenda to cull seal and shark populations, according to the newspaper.
The official Barnstable County proclamation mentioned three shark encounters off the coast of Cape Cod, including the attack that led to a Revere man’s death last year. It also mentioned the concern that rising seal population may be attracting more sharks to Cape Cod's shores.
Increased education and awareness is required to prevent further shark encounters, according to the proclamation.