A 15-year old boy was bitten yesterday off the beach on Sanibel by what "appeared to be" and I will assume out of lack of desire to do any journalistic legwork - a shark bite. Early lazy journalistic reports by actual journalists suggest that the 3 inch chomp in the kids leg may have been from a shark.
Sanibel Island is voted one of the top beaches for shelling in the world and it's not a secret that sharks live all along the coast of Florida. Although attacks are rare, they do happen from time to time and just like the "irrational fear" some have for flying, the rarity and novelty of being bitten by a shark or crashing in a plane, or crashing in a plane and than being eaten by a shark weighs heavily on the minds of the irrational. It just makes sense.
In 2008 there were 58 shark attacks worldwide. There are an average of 4 fatalities caused by shark attacks a year. This is a drop from 71 in 2007 - let's blame the economy. Fewer people are going to the beach. Fewer delicious humans in the water = fewer attacks. But many sharks give birth near shore during spring and early summer and that raises the danger level slightly.
Shark attack data through 2007 - http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/White/USA.htm
All Florida shrak attacks through 2007 - http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/statistics/GAttack/mapFL.htm
There have been over 11,000 vehicle related fatalities in 2009 in the US as of this writing. Yet we don't freak out as much when we get into the car. Ma-Le insists Ecuador has the safest beaches and they never had shark attacks (4 in 70 years). I thought that was just nationalistic pride but that does seem to be the case.
Regardless - there are a few safety tips and JunglePete tips to heed when venturing into the briny shallows:
- Swim, dive or surf with other people -- the more people you swim with, the more likely someone else will be bitten.
- Avoid wearing shiny jewelry that might simulate the scales of a prey fish, and also avoid uneven tanning. No shark attack victim wants to be on the news with an uneven tan.
- Don't swim at dusk or at night. This is when the JAWS theme song plays and that seems to attract sharks.
- Refrain from excessive splashing. This is very important if you are my niece and should be heeded even in swimming pools and bathtubs.
- Don't swim near people who are fishing or spear-fishing, chumming or using live bait. The spear ought to be a good deterant. .
- If a shark is sighted in the area, leave the water as calmly and quickly as possible. Tell no one.
- Do not harass a shark if one is spotted. But if you must - turn back to shore and yell "Watch this!"