'An invisible fence for sharks': New proposal to keep Cape beaches safer

An electric fence to keep sharks away from swimmers?

BARNSTABLE, Mass. — When communities on Cape Cod put out a call for ideas to keep beaches safer, Willy Planinshek had an idea: an invisible fence for sharks.

"We are going to create a frequency barrier that the seals are uncomfortable with that attacks their inner ear chamber and makes them uncomfortable,” said Planinshek.

He says he doesn't have much expertise on the technology but says there are plenty of researchers on the Cape that do, and he's hoping to work with them.

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His hope is that if he can get some of the seals to go away, the sharks will, as well.

"We are not responding to a shark attack, we are deterring a shark attack," he said.

Last year, there were two serious shark attacks on the Cape. In September, a 26-year-old man from Revere was killed in Wellfleet while boogie boarding. A month earlier, a 61-year-old man from New York was attacked in Truro, but survived.

"To date, the only solutions that we have heard are more of a lethal variety," said Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy has teamed up with Planinshek for the project. Their idea is one of many that have been proposed to address the problem.

"It's a Cape problem and I'm a Cape guy," said Planinshek.

There are several groups funding and implementing shark-detection technology. The state has also offered $383,000 for increased safety measures like emergency call boxes in areas where cell service is limited. Lifeguards and surfers are also stepping up training.

Planinshek and McCarthy admit they still have a long way to go.

"It's a concept only so this is the first step the second step is to engage a teaming partner to design and help us test this system," said McCarthy.

Researchers like Dr. Greg Skomal, a marine biologist who's one of the leading experts on sharks in the state, says it's too soon to offer an opinion.

Planinshek and McCarthy will present their proposal during a meeting with the Barnstable County commissioners on Wednesday morning.