PROVINCETOWN — The latest news on the waterfront is the dramatically increased number of beach closures that occurred last week. Alerts were coming into my cell phone via the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s “Sharktivity” app fast and furious. Nauset Beach, Newcomb Hollow, Race Point, and Cahoon Hollow seemed to be the hot spots, but Nauset Beach was the hottest.
Why this sudden increase in beach closures? Are there more sharks out there than before?
Not really. What we have is better detection. The addition of “shark buoys” — those single yellow buoys placed just past the breakers, approximately a quarter mile off the beach — is the big difference.
These buoys can pick up a “ping” from a tagged great white shark shark from roughly a quarter mile away, depending on sea conditions. The signals comes from the tags that have been put on more than 200 sharks since the tracking endeavor started. The transmitted ping generates an alert, which sends a signal to a cell phone in the lifeguard stand. The lifeguards then clear the water of swimmers. They must then wait for a second signal, which tells them the shark has gone undetected for 15 minutes.
The entire protocol dictates that the beach will be closed for at least one hour every time a shark is detected. The white shark issue on our beaches has changed the dynamic of ocean lifeguarding substantially. It is an exponentially more serious undertaking than it was during the pre-shark presence years. I wonder if the lifeguards’ pay reflects that?
The lifeguards I know have told me that beachgoers are becoming less and less freaked out by shark warnings and beach closures. What used to be a big deal is now routine. The evacuation of swimmers from the water seems to be more orderly and less chaotic than it was at first. Welcome to the new normal.
On the fishing front, it has not improved much since I last reported in. Bluefish remain scattered all along the bay side, as well as off the backside ocean beaches. Striped bass are still entrenched in and around the Race rips. Mackerel have left the bay and are thick on the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank.
Tuna fishing is heating up in the bay, with a few good-sized fish being taken offshore of the Pamet and around the dumping grounds. Out in the ocean, big tuna are being caught on the southwest and southeast corner of Stellwagen Bank.
I think we have seen the last of 70-degree surface water temperatures, as it has held steady at 64 to 68 degrees. We have a fair amount of good-sized bonito charging around our waters, notably in the Long Point to Wood End stretch. As I have said before, they are in the tuna family; they are very tasty if bled out immediately upon catching and buried in ice. They make a nice sashimi and are good for the grill. They also fight really hard when hooked. Try using smaller diamond jigs, like the AVA 007, and swimmers for these fish, as they tend to chase and consume smaller prey.
The fin whales seemed to have vacated the Race area for now, but with as much food as there is around there it wouldn’t surprise me to see them return.