Expert explains increase in North Florida shark attacks

Expert: 'Increase in people, not an increase in sharks'

Published On: Sep 09 2012 11:22:36 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 10 2012 06:40:49 AM EDT
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -

Two surfers, both in their 30s, said they were bitten by a shark last Thursday. The both said they never thought it would happen to them.

"You could feel the teeth going in, and the pressure is amazing. It's like someone hit you in the foot with a sledgehammer," said Andrew Birchall.

Birchall says he was surfing near Avenue D in St. Augustine Beach when a shark clamped onto his foot. Birchall said he needed surgery and his tendons were severed.

James Fyfe was in Neptune Beach when he says he got bitten on the calf. Fyfe lost so much blood that he says he lost consciousness on the way to the hospital.

"Whatever this was, it was a pretty large shark, because the cut was bone deep from my calf and it was about 5 inches long," Fyfe said.

As they recovered, the next day another man said he was bitten in St. Augustine Beach.

Since Channel 4 started reporting on these suspected bites, we have received a lot of emails, tweets and Facebook messages from people who are worried. We spoke with Jacksonville University marine biologist Dr. Quinton White.

"What it is is we've had two hurricanes sitting off the coast, generating great waves, and there are more people in the water now. So what we're seeing is an increase in people, not an increase in sharks," said White.

White said there's no reason to be alarmed. It's still very rare to get bitten by a shark, and there are no more in the water today than there were a few weeks or years ago. But he had advice for people who are concerned.

"You do want do things like avoid bright, shiny jewelry, things that will flash. I do think it makes common sense to stay out of the water if you have open sores or cuts, as much for the infections, as attracting sharks," said Dr. Quinton.

If you live by the coastal area your chance of being bitten is about 1 in 11.5 million people, according to University of Florida researchers.