There are sharks off Florida’s coast. That’s not news, but with the summer season underway, there are now thousands more people venturing to Florida’s beaches, so that means more shark sightings.
That’s still no excuse to not heed warnings, which are what lifeguards posted when a hammerhead shark hung around Nokomis Beach near Venice off Florida’s Gulf Coast last week.
The 8- to 12-foot shark kept swimmers out of the water for more than an hour, according to news reports.
About 100 miles north, another hammerhead shark was the star of a video put on the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
OCEARCH, a nonprofit group that tags sharks and tracks them on its website, shows many of its nicknamed great white sharks are spending time off Florida’s coast.
One day last week, 10-foot-2 Miss May was off the coast of Daytona Beach, 12-9 Caroline was off the Florida Keys, 12-5 Miss Costa was in the Florida Straits between the Keys and Cuba, and 5-1 Hudson was in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Naples. The group also tracks other species and there were several tracked tiger sharks and bull sharks in Florida’s waters, as well.
Most years, shark bites happen off Florida’s coasts more than anywhere else in the world, with Volusia County leading the way. That’s often because surfers near Ponce Inlet get bit in the stirred-up waters near New Smyrna Beach. In April, a shark bit a teenager from Sanford, Fla., on the calf while he waded in waist-deep water in New Smyrna Beach, a Volusia County Beach Safety spokesman said.
Those bites were not fatal, however. According to the International Shark Attack File, for 2018, shark bites were down worldwide, with only 66 incidents recorded, down from 88 in 2017. The average over the past five years is 84 bites. Of the 66 in 2018, 32 happened in U.S. waters. Only one of the 32 was fatal, off the coast of Massachusetts, and the first fatal shark attack in the United States since 2015. But 2019 already has its first fatal U.S. shark attack, as a man was recently killed off the coast Hawaii.
Florida was home to half of the 32 attacks with 16 overall in 2018. Volusia County once again led with four bites while Brevard had three, Nassau and St. Lucie counties with two, and one bite each in Duval, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pinellas and St. Johns counties.
Historically, the International Shark Attack File notes that since 1882, Florida has had 827 unprovoked shark attacks. Volusia County is No. 1 by far with 303 while Brevard is No. 2 with 147 and Palm Beach County is No. 3 with 76.
The file also tracks the most dangerous months with data since 1926. So in the past 92 years, more than 70 attacks a month have been from July-October — with 103 of the attacks coming in September.
For safety, always swim as a group — sharks most often attack lone individuals. Avoid the water at night, dawn or dusk, when many sharks are most active. Don’t wear shiny jewelry because the reflected light looks like shining fish scales.