Shark Attack Central
Posted September 1st, 2001
During the weekend of August 11 and 12, 2001, six people were attacked by sharks in Volusia County on Florida’s east coast. This has only added to a shark attack hysteria
that began in July when an 8-year-old Mississippi boy was attacked in the Florida panhandle.
Jessie Arbogast was swimming with his family at Pensacola Beach when a bull shark bit off his right arm and part of his leg. The boy’s uncle saved him and dragged
him to shore while a park ranger shot the shark and retrieved the arm. Jessie’s arm was reattached, and he is recovering at home.
While there have been six attacks in a single weekend in Volusia County, authorities assure citizens that the overall number of shark attacks have not increased much
this year. In 2000, there were 16 shark attacks in Volusia County. As of the middle of August, there were only 17.
Even with these recent events, shark attacks are still considered very rare. In 2000, there were 79 attacks worldwide, with 51 of them occurring in the U.S. Florida
is the shark hot spot with 34 attacks last year, most of them concentrated in the areas of Volusia Country and New Smyrna Beach.
During the summer, many sharks flock in the warm waters off the Gulf of Mexico, which makes up more than half of Florida’s coastline. The sharks make their home there
because of the large population of baitfish, which the sharks feed upon.
Of course, no one visiting Florida has to worry about seeing a live version of the film Jaws because great white sharks frequent much colder waters. These warmer
coastal attacks can come, however, from virtually any shark in the area, such as bull sharks, black tip sharks, hammerheads, and sand sharks.
To keep swimmers safe, beach authorities conduct routine patrols by helicopter, beach patrol trucks, and jet ski. When heavy rainfall and waves churn the water, it
becomes murky and makes sharks difficult to spot. The murky water also contributes to a shark mistaking a swimmer for a fish or marine mammal.
In fact, most sharks do not intentionally attack humans. Many shark attacks result from a mistaken identity. Surfers are one group that constantly face the risk of
shark attacks because from below, the surfboard can look like a fish or marine mammal. In fact, some sharks are commonly referred to as "man biters" instead of "man eaters"
because they only nip or bite at swimmers, but will leave immediately once they recognize that the potential "prey" is not a fish or marine mammal.
At the end of the summer, the shark population in Florida reduces greatly as many sharks migrate to the warmer southern waters near the Florida Keys.
Use the Internet to learn more about shark attacks and other dangers. With a small group, report to the rest of the class how the risks of a shark attack
compare to other risks, such as car accidents.