Shark expert weighs-in on recent attacks

The dramatic photos show the intense moments after two shark attacks in coastal North Carolina, Sunday. A 13-year-old girl lost her left arm and in another, a 16-year-old boy lost a limb.

Chris Anselmo, Fire Chief at Oak Island, North Carolina recently told members of the media "Both victims were reported to be about 20 yards off shore in waist deep water. Both victims were transported by buses by Brunswick County EMS to a landing zone and airlifted to Hanover Regional Medical Center with life threatening injuries. As of last night, both victims were out of surgery and in stable condition."

Just last week, a 10-year-old boy was bitten by a shark in Cocoa Beach, and a surfer was bitten in New Smyrna Beach in late May.
Shark expert, George Burgess, said deaths by shark have gone down, but

"We're seeing more attacks all the time, everywhere in the world. This is simply because we're putting more and more people into the water every year."

We've spoken to Burgess in the past. He is Director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.

He said Florida has about 20 or so shark bites a year. Most of which he says are "hit-and-run" bites by small species sharks.

White sharks are rare, he says, and we're seeing a few more, because their populations are improving. As for why humans are bitten, he says they see a splash of a hand or kicking foot thinking it's a fish.

Burgess explained,"They're not intending to go after humans. They think they're going after a fish. Obviously, they realize their mistake very quickly and they don't come back for any more bites."

He said there are ways to help protect yourself from shark bites in our coastal waters.

 Burgess said, "Staying together in groups, avoiding areas where sharks might be more common, such as if you see sea birds diving or people fishing."

He said avoid steep drop offs along channels, areas between sand bars and if you see a shark in the water, get out.

Burgess continued, "Considering there were three fatalities in the entire world last year, the chances of you dying in the mouth of a shark are pretty much slim to none as an individual."

Bottom line, the stories along our Central Florida coast should be a reminder to stay alert, but not stay out, of the water.
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