As the Fourth of July holiday arrives, is there more cause for concern that a toothy shark might be lurking in the waters off Juno Beach, Palm Beach, Lake Worth Beach or Delray Beach? Well, even if beaches are closed this weekend due to the coronavirus resurgance, sharks are also found in fresh water!
Florida is the state with the most shark bites in the nation and right now there are three great whites swimming off our east coast. Track sharks in South Florida waters here.
Lifeguards off Juno beach say they haven’t seen a shark attack in years. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t shark sightings. Jon Cooper of Westin and his two children recently saw a fin in the water off South Beach Pavilion in Boca Raton.
Though the Sunshine State accounts for 25 percent of worldwide shark bites, only three shark attacks were reported in the state in 2018, according to the International Shark Attack File, a scientific database of shark attacks housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
There were 16 unprovoked attacks in Florida in 2018 which was lower than the most recent five-year annual average of 30 incidents, according to the Florida Museum International Shark Attack File. Only one shark attack was reported in Palm Beach County.
In Florida, most attacks come from blacktip sharks, which are a little under 5 feet long and weigh about 40 pounds. If they do bite a swimmer, it is usually because the shark thought the victim was a fish.
Dr. Stephen Kajiura, a professor in Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Biological Sciences says, while the odds of encountering a shark aren’t high, he still advises swimmers to be mindful that there could be sharks out there. Floridians in northern areas like Jacksonville and Daytona “where the water’s much murkier” have more of a chance of a shark encounter.
And as the human population grows much faster than the shark population, more people will be on the beaches and the number of encounters will increase.
By the way, you’re not even safe from sharks in fresh water. Kajiura says that the bull shark can make its way into the intracoastal and rivers to have her young. There are cases of fatal attacks occurring in these bodies of water, not just in the ocean.
“And you’ve got muddy water with lots of sharks that are migrating north and it corresponds to this increasing number of bites,” Kajiura said.
Kajiura reminds Palm Beach swimmers to exercise common sense when entering the ocean. Early morning and dusk offer the least visibility leading to a shark mistaking you for a scaly morsel.
“That’s when it’s hard to distinguish between a little fish and the sole of your foot,” he said.
Also, don’t swim near someone reeling in fish. “If you see a lot of bait fish jumping in the water, that’s probably a good sign that a predator’s there. Might be tarpon. Might be Jacks. Might be a shark. “You’re asking for trouble at that point.”
Don’t wear sparkly jewelry, don’t thrash around, don’t swim near fishermen.
Swim in a group: Sharks mostly attack when alone.
Stay close to the shore: The farther away you are from the beach, the farther away you are from help if a shark does attack.
Avoid dawn or dusk swims: These are feeding times for sharks, and they can see you in dark waters more easily than you can see them.
Don’t swim if bleeding: Sharks can smell and taste blood.
Listen to full interview with Dr. Stephen Kajiura, a professor in Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Biological Sciences here.
Full Rigor The Shark has Pretty Teeth, dear