After North Carolina’s worst year on record for shark attacks last year, researchers predict even more this summer. All the ingredients are coming together for another record breaking year of shark attacks. Last year, there were ninety-eight unintentional shark attacks worldwide. This exceeded the record of eighty-eight in 2000. Of those attacks, eight were along the North Carolina coast. Researchers have been putting a lot of focus on North Carolina’s coastal safety. With similar conditions to last year, will this be another record year for shark attacks in North Carolina?
There are many reasons as to why the concentration of sharks was very high along the East Coast last summer. At the time, a heat wave had covered the region, warming the water and drawing numerous sharks close to the coast. Shark’s prey on species such as whales, turtles, and menhaden. Last summer, these species headed northward during the heat wave. Because of this, sharks followed moving from the coasts of Florida all the way up to beaches in Virginia. Along with migration patterns, the amount of shark attacks was also due to a greater concentration of the human population near oceans. With a steadily rising human population, the amount of time spent in the sea by humans is increasing opportunities for shark attacks.
One unusual occurrence with a lot of North Carolina’s summer shark attacks is that most were in shallow waters. This behavior was because many of the shark’s food sources were coming closer to shore, but also it was due to rainfall. Last summer, North Carolina was in the midst of a moderate drought for several weeks, according to George Burgess. This caused the salt content of ocean water closer to shore to be higher than usual. Most all sharks prefer waters with a high salinity level.
So, does all of this information affect your chances of swimming in the ocean this summer? In Oak Island, North Carolina, two teenagers were bitten ninety minutes apart on June 14, 2015. However, swimmers were back in the water at that spot within a couple hours after the attack. After running a poll asking Apex High School students whether or not the highly predicted year of shark attacks in North Carolina would stop them from swimming in the ocean, 61% said no, and 39% said yes. So it is evident that many people will swim regardless, but there are precautions you should take for your own safety.
There are many things people can do to reduce the odds of an attack. Seeing schools of fish, seabirds diving, or people fishing should be a no-brainer to get out of the water. Also, stay away from piers because that is where lots of fish locate themselves. Remember, you are swimming in a shark’s home, not your own. It is smart to be aware of your surroundings and to take your safety into consideration. With summer temperatures currently on the rise, the sharks are already starting to head north. Let’s hope this summer is not another record breaking year for shark attacks.
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