So far this year, there have been 74 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks around the world, six of them fatal, according to the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. There were 72 unprovoked shark attacks last year, 76 in 2013 and 83 in 2012.
Forty-three of this year’s attacks (one of them fatal) occurred in the United States, more than half of them (22) in Florida. Helping to account for this year’s shark hysteria, eight attacks occurred in a span of about six weeks in early summer off the coast of North Carolina, a state that had seen a total of only 25 shark attacks in the previous decade, according to the Shark Attack File.
Among the most recent victims in Florida was 14-year-old Phillip Tarascovic, who is recovering after his hand was bitten while surfing over the weekend at New Smyrna Beach, an hour northeast of Orlando, according to NBC affiliate WPTV. The bite injured tendons in Phillip’s hand but left him otherwise intact.
In Fort Pierce, Fla., a 22-year-old man’s foot was bitten by a shark Monday while he was body-boarding, WPTV reported. The victim, who has not been identified, was able to make his way back to shore and received stitches in his foot, a St. Lucie County spokesperson told WPTV.
Those attacks followed a series of bites at northeast Florida beaches during a two-week period that began Sept. 17, according to CBS afffiliate WJAX. The final attack, before Monday’s incident, involved a 22-year-old surfer who was bitten on his ankle while surfing in Vilano Beach, about an hour south of Jacksonville, Fla.
“My foot was completely covered in blood,” David Morrison said.
“We call these attacks, ‘hit-and-run attacks’ because it was a quick grab and let go,” International Shark Attack File Curator George Burgess told WJAX.
Weeks earlier, Josh Bitner Jr. was playing in the waist-deep surf off Fernandina Beach north of Jacksonville when “something grabbed my leg and turned me around,” according to the Florida Times-Union.
The 12-year-old screamed “shark,” but his father thought he was joking. Josh told the paper he thinks he was attacked by a lemon shark that was “a little bit smaller” than his 4-foot-9 inch frame.
The shark bit Josh a second time, turning him around again. Before he dragged himself out of the water, the football-playing middle school student said he fought back.
“I grabbed its top fin and lifted it out of the water and punched it,” he told the Times-Union. “It was just instinct. If something is turning me around and hurting me, then I’m going to punch it.”
Josh was taken to a local hospital and given stitches for lacerations on his leg, according to the Times-Union. Hospital staff told the paper he is in good condition.
Burgess says the recent spate of attacks in Florida suggests there’s more to come.
“We’ve had a lot of reports of increased fish activity in Northeast Florida in the last couple of weeks,” he said.
Florida may be the epicenter of recent shark bites, but Texas swimmers are on alert as well. On Monday, a 13-year-old swimmer in Galveston was bitten on his lower leg and hand, according to USA Today.
Gregory Slaughter told Galveston Beach Patrol officials that he was swimming with his brother when the pair found themselves enveloped by a school of fish. The startled boys were swimming back to shore when the shark struck, the paper reported.
Officials suspect the animal was attempting to eat passing fish when it bit into Gregory instead.
“Here in our shallow waters, it’s very uncommon,” Lt. Kara Harrison of Galveston Island Beach Patrol told CBS affliate KHOU.
Despite an above-average number of bites in North Carolina and Florida this year, Texas officials told the paper that Monday’s bite was the first to occur in the state in more than a year.
Family members initially wrapped the boy’s foot and hand in towels to stop the bleeding while calling for paramedics. They told KHOU that the boy underwent two surgeries after the incident and is expected to recover.
“Just don’t swim in schools of fish, and if you have any open wounds or cuts that are obviously bleeding, don’t get in the water and go swimming,” Harrison said.
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