Perhaps no local topic has stirred more controversy in recent months than the growing population of Great White Sharks in the waters surrounding Cape Cod. Last August a man was seriously injured by a shark. In September a man was killed by a shark.
Concern is growing in the tourism industry that the party might be over for Cape Cod beaches if the local seal population - and thus the shark population - continues to grow.
A growing population of seals - the sharks' primary food source - appears to be drawing ever more sharks into our waters.
Earlier this year an "acoustic dome" concept was floated by two Cape Cod men. The basic concept is that the system would use sound waves to repel seals from swimming beaches and, hopefully, the sharks would follow the seals away from those beaches as well.
Cape Cod Today invited Kevin McCarthy and Willy Planinshek to sit down with Cape Cod Today for one of our virtual interviews. As with all CCToday virtual interviews, we submitted a list of questions to our guests and they have emailed back their responses. We have published their responses verbatim as received - no editing, no cutting for space or any other changes were made. The guests' remarks are published exactly as submitted by our guests. Questions are presented in the order they were submitted to our guests.
Willy Planinshek is a General Contractor operating Project Managers, LLC, mostly on the Cape. He also owns Cape & Islands Mediation Services, which specializes in contract disputes and personal injury. Mr. Planinshek has also owned and operated six restaurants.
Kevin McCarthy has spent his entire career pursuing various "oceans" related endeavors. He worked first as a professional diver then served in various senior management positions at oceanographic manufacturing companies, including Klein Associations, Teledyne Benthos and Hydroid LLC. He holds a B.S. from Northeastern University and an M.B.A. from Suffolk University.
Does your “Acoustic Dome’ Harass Seals or Sharks to The MMPA standard?
In our understanding of The MMPA guidelines as to HARASSMENT – DEEP BLUE LLC.'s Marine Acoustic Deterrent Systems (M.A.D.S.) does not rise to their prescribed levels. Included in The MMPA are allowances for approved research for further understanding and protection methodology implementation. We will present our Research & Development for their evaluation and Determination of Compliance. We will not be involved with any attempt to harm these majestic animals temporarily nor permanently. We in their back yard, not ours.
What are the concerns (push back) you’re receiving from the public and others?
We have received some push back since presenting our proposal to the Barnstable County Commissioners. All initial adverse scientific and public views are considered crucial to this stage of the concept development. Many have commented that “It will never work,” “You can’t do that,” etc. To those we ask; “What is your solution?
What`s the next step to your getting this in the water and operational?
Deep Blue LLC is presently in the fundraising phase for the purpose of Research and Development. Once sufficient funds are raised we will select a suitable engineering and manufacturing partner. We are fortunate to be on Cape Cod since there are several international oceanographic companies on the Cape that have the engineering and manufacturing capabilities to make this concept a reality.
How long can we expect your Prototype will take?
Once the system engineering and prototype manufacturing commences we would anticipate having a porotype in the water for testing in 10 -12 months.
How much money is needed?
There are two cost components in the M.A.D.S. system. The first is the non-recurring engineering and testing. We anticipate $300,000 to $500,000 will be required for this phase. The recurring manufacturing cost of production systems is estimated to be $50,000 to $60,000.
Can human`s hear the frequency(s)
Humans will not hear the acoustics due to the frequency range that will be employed.
Will other Marine Life be affected? We have designed a Directed Audio Sound Wave to be focused by way of transducers, an “Acoustic Axis Cone” will be aimed at the beach. The Frequency Generator Platform will be anchored approximately ½ mile out in front of the swimming area creating “The Acoustic Dome Effect”.
How many will be deployed in a swimming area – and of what size swimming area?
We anticipate 1 to 2 systems will be required to provide a protective acoustic dome around a recreational area. The exact area to be protected, the frequency and decibel levels will be refined during engineering and testing.
How will the devices operate?
The devices will be anchored to the seafloor off the beach. The exact location will be determined during testing, however, we anticipate approximately a half mile off the beach. The location may vary depending on the location and bottom topography. The systems will have to be out of the high energy area and in sufficient depth to assure they will not get covered in sand during storms. They will be battery operated and will emit sounds at intermittent times. The acoustics will be emitted via a directional transducer, aimed to the shore providing a protective acoustic dome. In this manner other marine mammals such as whales and dolphins swimming offshore will not be negatively affected by the system.
Is there maintenance?
The systems will be robust and will require minimal maintenance. They will be deployed seasonally and will require refurbishment during the off season. The batteries may need to be replayed on a periodic basis. This will be determined during the engineering phase. The ideal situation will be for the system batteries to operate for the entire season, thus eliminating the cost of replacing the batteries during the season.
Will all towns need to deploy them?
That will be up to the towns to decide.
What happens if a town doesn`t, what is their exposure?
The gray seals will depart a “protected” beach. They will be displaced to nearby waters. If these beaches are unprotected the gray seals, with accompanying feeding great white sharks, could enter these waters.
What is the problem – Seals or Sharks?
The gray seals are the “problem” and the solution. Few are quick to realize that the great white sharks are simply a symptom. Prior to the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 1972 the siting of a gray seal in Cape Cod waters was a rare event. The MMPA achieved its intended goals and the gray seal population has fully recovered. There are now an estimated 50,000 in Cape waters. Their primary predator, the great white shark now migrates to Cape Cod every summer and stays through the fall months feeding on the numerous gray seals. Great white sharks have always been in Cape waters, but nowhere near the numbers at present. Ongoing population studies by the State Division of Marine Fisheries indicate there are in excess of 300 great white sharks in waters off the lower Cape through the summer and fall months. The Marine Acoustic Deterrent System will encourage gray seals to depart the area. With the food source gone the great white sharks will also depart, in pursuit of the gray seals, their primary prey item. Orca (killer whale) vocalizations will also be transmitted to further encourage the great white sharks to depart. Orcas are the only known predator of great white sharks and scientific studies have verified that great white sharks will depart an area when they encounter them.
How does your Audio Sound Wave affect the seals?
The theory is simple, change the travel pattern of the Gray Seal into deeper waters around swimming areas, you will effectively change the travel pattern of The Great White Shark, as well eliminating human interaction. The acoustic signals emitted from the M.A.D.S. will be a non-lethal, tuned irritant to the Gray Seals inner ear chamber. As the seal enters “The Acoustic Dome”, the frequency strength will become more uncomfortable and also sustaining a mobility imbalance, causing them to leave the protected area and flee to friendlier deeper waters. M.A.D.S. will also vary the strength of decibels to establish a Startle Response, which has been proven to add another layer to move the seals into deeper waters.
What is the desired result?
The desired result is to have the gray seals vacate an area protected by M.A.D.S. With the food source removed it is hypothesized that the great white sharks will also vacate the area. Orca vocalizations will be broadcast as an increased incentive for the great white sharks to vacate the area.
Your Deterrent System identifies that Great Whites are afraid of Orca`s, do you have evidence of that?
Yes, there is abundant coverage on the Web as to this occurring around the world. Please GOOGLE – Orca`s and Great White interaction, South Africa. The latest research is from The Monterey Bay Aquarium Study April 16th 2019, this study reveals the intense fear behavior exhibited by Great Whites when Orca`s simply pass by a known haven for Great Whites. The “TAGGED” Great Whites are reported not only to disperse immediately but not to return for several months, some an entire feeding season.
Your Prototype indicates an Orca Vocalization Chamber designed to emit their communication frequency coding, do you plan to use this fear of Orcas?
Orca vocalizations are available, we would like to use the vocalizations of an Orca Pod hunting and use this in our chamber. Orca`s use low frequency`s 6 Hz for normal pod communication. They jump to 18 to 42Hz when in hunt concert mode. Sharks hearing range is 10Hz to 800Hz. This will also use “The Startle Response”.
What are the other After the Fact measures being implemented?
Deep Blue`s M.A.D.S. is to our knowledge the only submitted Deterrent Proposal to The Woods Hole Group for evaluation purposes. The Woods Hole Group was granted $49,000.00 to determine all proposals for relief of Great White and human interaction alternatives. The “AFTER the FACT” is a term we use to distinguish the clear differences in our “PROACTIVE Deterrent” as opposed to a “RESOURCE, REACTION, DEPLOYMENT MEASURE”. “AFTER the FACT” procedures include: Cell phone up grades, Bleed Courses, Military issue First Aid Kits, More Life Guards and training, Drones, Sonar, roaming EMT`s, signage and faster First Responder response. That`s an admission Cape Cod, factor in the seal and shark population growth percentages, human interaction this year up 15 to 20%.
What is your goal?
We believe a solution of equals must be engineered for swimmers, surfers, seals, sharks and Beach Communities to Co- Exist. The DEEP BLUE formula will be the proven key to the co-existence of the 2 worlds by the power of “SCULPTURED TECHNOLOGY”.
Will this problem get worse if there is nothing done about it?
The gray seal population has more than doubled in Cape Cod waters in recent years to an estimated population of 50,000. There is no reason to believe the population growth has reached its maximum size. Not surprisingly the great white shark population has increased every year in Cape Cod waters in the past decade. Population studies conducted over the past five years by the Massachusetts State Division of Marine Fisheries estimates there are in excess of 300 great white sharks feeding on the gray seals. There is no reason to believe that the population of great white sharks in Cape Cod waters has reached its peak, thus virtually guaranteeing human – shark interactions.