Maine’s first fatal shark attack on record indicates a resurgence of the storied critters along America’s Northeast coast.
Sixty-three-year-old New Yorker Julie Dimperio Holowach was swimming a mere twenty yards from shore near Portland when she perished. National Geographic reports marine biologist Greg Skomal assures a Great White Shark was “definitely” responsible.
“The return of great white sharks to New England over the past two decades is both a conservation success story and an emerging public safety concern,” notes the magazine. “Since 2012, there have been five attacks in the region…Before 2012, the most recent attack occurred in 1936.”
Skormal claims the numbers of Carcharodon carcharias have been “growing steadily” for several years. Cape Cod alone boasts a record-breaking fifty of the notorious mega-predators tagged in 2019. Per boston.com, mere days after July 27th’s fatal incident, three more sharks were spied in Maine precincts.
What’s government to do?
Shark populations plunged ominously in the 1970s and 80s, but have rebounded since; a “result of two actions taken by the federal government. In 1972, Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act; landmark legislation prohibiting the killing of seals” (i.e., shark food). That was followed by 1997’s ban on fishing for the precarious Great White.
The result? “Cape Cod emerged as a white shark hotspot.” And currently, though some specialists disagree about why the ocean-patrolling giants are ranging into the Gulf of Maine, that’s precisely what appears to be happening.
Why, you could almost classify this development a shark “spike”–a situation ripe for “shutting down” all beachside activities.
National Geographic continues: Maine’s Department of Marine Resources’ Jeff Nichols “said in an email that the state is urging caution, but he didn’t say if they’d be reconsidering protocols for when to close beaches.”
Point of fact, a number of spots in Maine or on/near the Cape temporarily banned swimming pronto; a bit of a sticky dilemma. When it comes to Maine and Massachusetts economies, after all, the summer’s beach-centered rush is nothing to sniff at. The success–even survival–of many a seaside hotel, restaurant, and family-oriented tourism site hinges on crowds visiting the ocean during the clement May-September stretch. While “debate” stirred by “public safety” can become “heated”, this option lurks: Break out those “beach closed” signs! Swimming, boogie boarding, surfing, any kind of salt-water splashery? Altogether verbotten.
Call it a littoral “lockdown”. That’s the way we handle these kinds of predicaments in 2020…right?
Granted, the Florida Museum International Shark Attack File provides that worldwide in 2019 a comparatively scant sixty-four unprovoked shark attacks occurred; resulting in only two confirmed deaths. Likewise granted, the University of New England’s James Sulikowski reassured back in 2017 that “You have far more [of a] chance of being bitten by another human being on a subway in New York than you do getting bit by a shark,”
That said, borrowing the grave and broadly-lauded sentiments of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo when formulating his state’s policy for battling COVID-19: The cost of a human life is priceless. If everything that is done saves just one life, we should be happy.
Let’s cut with shark-like ruthlessness to the bottom line: Each annum’s warm-weather beach-hopping forbidden? Entrepreneurs’ and employees’ livelihoods evaporated? None of that is good–but if shutdowns “can save one life”…?
Taking one last cue from the instruction of the Empire State’s top pol: Bankrupted vacationer-dependent enterprises, multitudes of jobs lost, local bottom-line conditions gutted might all be “very bad”; but they’re “not death.”
Then there’s this further nugget: “[Y]ou’re more likely to be killed in a car accident on the way to the beach than by a white shark at the beach,” (Glen Skomal). So a swimming-ban could indirectly contribute to a drop in traffic deaths? Fewer motorists peregrinating to summer sands, thus fewer people dying on highways? The shark-induced case for closures just keeps getting more irresistible!
Even one life …
Obviously the commentary above is offered with tongue immovably planted in cheek. The untimely demise of that poor woman in Maine? An unambiguous tragedy, truly. The New York Post observes Ms. Dimperio Holowach was “living the life she’d always dreamed about when she died”. A former fashion exec, marathon runner/triathlete, she’d retired early to spend more time with her husband and two children at the “Vacationland” home she owned.
“She loved life,” said one pal.
Four centuries ago English poet John Donne reflected, “Any man’s death diminishes me/because I am involved in mankind.” So true then; still true now.
But whether confronting contagion or coastal carnivore or car commuting…saving lives can’t be the only variable factored into a society’s decision-making. A commandingly important variable? Sure enough. Not the exclusive one however.
As the always straightforward Michelle Malkin puts it: “All deaths are tragic…But we haven’t banned cars, bikes, swimming pools, aspirin, plastic bags or matches to prevent the tens of thousands of…deaths that occur each year due to unintentional accidents involving these items”.
Negotiating this planet is, admittedly, stacked with risk; some genuinely reckless, some inescapable. It can’t all be avoided, abolished, shooed away–not if “life’ is going to measure up to actual living.
Judge Andrew Napolitano recently philosophized, “What once was a government that needed the consent of the governed…to do anything is now one that requires of us its permission to do nearly everything…Is not among the freedoms Jefferson wrote about the freedom to take chances?”
There’s no denying pandemics or proliferating deep-sea meat-eaters — or myriad other potential threats – can pose sobering challenges for a community. Or a nation. What must be denied? That crawling into a hole and pulling it closed behind you–or being forced to do so by “experts” or elected officials–s the optimum solution.
A quixotic quest for safety at all costs–smothering free human beings’ liberty, quashing their ability to function–is like a “Sorry, Closed” placard draped over…everything. It might be marketed as a campaign to protect people; but it throttles “We the People” in the process.
That threat loomed long before COVID-19. It will continue to do so long after the sharks have swum away.