By now, most of us have heard or read about the terrifying shark attacks that have happened in the past week. WWAY provides information about the first in this rash of attacks, which occurred Thursday at Ocean Isle Beach, NC. On Thursday, June 11th, a 13-year-old girl’s foot was bitten by a shark, leaving her with a few bites on her foot but no major injuries. Unfortunately, WNCN reports that yesterday, two teens were not as lucky. At 4:12 PM, a 12-year-old girl was attacked near the pier in Oak Island. She has lost part of her arm and may lose her left leg. Then, within 1.5 hours at 5:30 PM, a 16- year-old boy was attacked near 55th St in the same city. He lost an arm during the attack. Luckily, both victims were out of surgery and stable by Sunday evening. According to the article, Oak Island officials wanted to make sure everyone knows that these incidents are very rare, and provided statistics to the public. Last year, the total number of shark attacks worldwide added up to 72. 45 of these attacks occurred within the US, and only 3 worldwide resulted fatally. 4 non-fatal attacks occurred in North Carolina last year.
While these incidents are horrifying and often harmful when they occur, it is important to remember that there are a number of reasons a shark may attack a human; most are not malicious. The Shark Project’s website offers information about what actually may have caused a shark to attack. They remind us that we should all be aware of where the fishing areas at our local beaches are so that we can avoid swimming near them. It is crucial to do so not only because you risk being accidentally hooked by someone fishing, but because the bait used to fish can attract sharks. Sharks will then see you swimming in their “food stream” and will be confused, perhaps prompting an attack. For this reason, it is important to avoid piers while enjoying time in the water. The confusion of the shark is one of the main reasons listed by the organization. In addition to being surrounded by bait not intended for them, sharks’ senses can be confused by a high volume of swimmers, electrical storms, low visibility or waves and sounds produced by boat motors. The list also draws attention to the fact that that sharks tend to have different, perhaps more aggressive tendencies when they are in a group, but also stresses the significance of the individual “personality” of the animal. Just like dogs, cats or any other animal we are comfortable with, (including humans!) some sharks are simply more aggressive and prone to attack than others. The article notes that feeding by humans is a problem for sharks in certain areas as it is with other animals. Having sharks equate humans with food can create a very dangerous situation, for both parties. Concluding the list, the Shark Project emphasizes that as diving with sharks has become more commonplace, the lack of respect for the power of the shark has also become a frequent issue. We forget that the sharks are not our pets, that we are in their territory, and that they are much more physically powerful than us.
If we are all aware of the reasons behind shark attacks and concentrate on taking the steps to avoid them, we can ensure a much safer trip to the beach for everyone!