Finneran: Wishing

Friday, September 21, 2018
Tom Finneran, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTERâ„¢


  • I wish I was wrong. I am not.
  • I wish Arthur Medici was alive. He is not.
  • I wish William Lytton has not been ripped open. He was.
  • I wish that common sense was more common. It is not. In fact, it’s rare.

Let’s start with the sad rather than the self-serving. Let’s start with Arthur Medici. He was a 26 year old kid, having the time of his life, enjoying the beautiful waters of Cape Cod National Seashore on a gorgeous September day. In that regard he was no different than millions of kids, parents, and grandparents who delight in these waters, swimming, surfing, and boogie boarding during our short summer season. Arthur was with a family friend, a young man who is now no doubt psychologically scarred for the rest of his life. After all, Arthur’s friend witnessed the shark attack and he tried to save Arthur. Despite every effort, he watched Arthur die, a violent brutal and preventable death.

These once delightful waters have turned deadly, foreseeably deadly, by deliberate and oblivious human design.

I have a user’s familiarity with the beaches of Cape Cod, both on the ocean side as well as the allegedly “safe” Bay beaches. Do not be fooled. These days, none of the beaches are particularly safe.

For more than thirty years I’ve been a huge fan and almost daily user of Coast Guard beach on the colder rougher ocean side of the Cape. The Bay beaches, with their ten foot tides, miles and miles of tidal pools, and warmer waters have been favorites of my wife, my children, and my grandchildren. Those Bay waters have always hosted families for water skiing, tubing, snorkeling, fishing, and simply swimming from the water’s edge or from one’s kayak or runabout.

I suspect that those small family pleasures have been surrendered now, surrendered to the fetish of seal worship.

From the mid-1980s up until about 2005, I never saw a single seal near any of these beaches. Their arrival in the early 2000s was seen as a novelty and “cute”. Their explosion, from that time to the present day, is no doubt attributable to the seals being placed on the “endangered species” list. They have gone from novel and cute to a gross and dangerous horde, numbering many thousands, and attracting hundreds of great white sharks. One of those sharks attacked and killed Arthur Medici last Saturday. One of those sharks attacked and almost killed William Lytton last month. But for a couple of alert nursing students on the beach at the time of his attack, Mr. Lytton would also be dead and Mrs. Lytton would be a grieving widow, joining Arthur Medici’s grieving family.

That there will be more attacks, more hideous wounds, and more deaths there should be no doubt. Self-serving perhaps, but I point you to my column of August 3rd. I wish I was wrong. I am not.

The sharks—apex predators, massive, sleek, swift, and deadly killing machines---are acting quite naturally. They hunt prey and their favorite prey are seals. Ergo, those many thousands of seals bring hundreds of sharks. Hundreds of sharks bring foreseeable danger, a danger that proved all too real and very deadly to Arthur Medici.

Do not hasten to blame the sharks. Do however hasten to blame the human beings whose worship of seals and whose indifference to human life has recklessly changed the Cape Cod equation. Multiple generations have cherished these recreational waters, now rendered off-limits to any rational person. Where sharks lurk danger lurks too.

The seals are not endangered. Human beings are. Might someone in authority please take note.

Newspaper reports suggest that state and local officials are to gather soon to discuss the situation. I offer three thoughts: Cull the herds of seals; place seasonal shark nets off Cape Cod beaches; use hydrophones of orca recordings to scatter the sharks further offshore into deeper waters.

No sharks need to be killed. No more humans need to be killed either. Do it, belatedly, using increasingly rare common sense.

Do it, belatedly, in Arthur Medici’s name.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.


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