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What Are Experts Saying About North Carolina Shark Bites?

posted: 07/02/15
by: Danny Clemens

The recent spate of shark bites, especially along the coast of North Carolina, has left the nation grappling with the reality that there are an abundance of sharks in the same oceans in which we swim. As many call for the closure of beaches over the holiday weekend (and some call for the euthanization of sharks), experts are speaking out in an attempt to set the record straight about the cause of recent shark bites.

The leading explanation is actually pretty simple: many experts believe that a rise in sea turtle and herring numbers around North Carolina beaches has attracted more sharks to the region.

"From a scientist's standpoint, you have a maximum amount of bait in that area this time of year, the summer's peak. And occasionally... these sharks that come in all around that life get confused -- and you're starting to see more of the typical kind of bite and release type of events that occur up and down the coast regularly every summer," OCEARCH chairman Chris Fischer told Fox Business.

Great white shark (CARCHARODON CARCHARIAS).
Carl Roessler

It's commonly accepted that sharks aren't intentionally trying to bite humans, either: "Scientists believe that most shark bites are a case of mistaken identity. From below, a surfer in a black rubber wetsuit looks a great deal like a seal, for example," explains David Shiffman, a PhD candidate at the University of Miami's Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy.

In the same way that humans go where there is food, sharks are taking advantage of an all-you-can-eat buffet -- of fish and turtles.

The L.A. Times also points to abnormal weather conditions and a local drought, both which are making the sea water off of North Carolina warmer and saltier, conditions that sharks favor.

"This is going to go away," George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, told the L.A. Times. "We're not under siege from sharks."

Shoreline
Sexto Sol, Getty Images

That being said, common sense is still important. Keep in mind that you're a guest in the shark's habitat, not the other way around. Last month, marine biologist Ralph Collier gave us some simple advice for staying safe around sharks:

"I would say to bathers: don't wear bright-colored bathing suits, especially those that have contrasting colors. Some sharks can see color. Don't wear jewelry. When you're in the ocean and the jewelry moves around, and the sun reflects off of it, it could be interpreted as a fish by some of these smaller sharks and they might come in thinking it's a fish in distress."

"And just use common sense. If sharks have been reported in an area, don't go in the water there. Common sense goes a long way with these animals. Never provoke a shark. So don't grab a tail. Don't try to feed them. Don't poke them with anything because you might elicit a response from them that you'll be sorry you got."

Click here to read our full interview with Collier

Click here to learn more about shark-human encounters in Sharkopedia, our comprehensive guide to everything shark

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