Expert offers advice to avoid shark bites

44-year-old bitten in foot at Jacksonville Beach on Tuesday

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – It was a scary moment for a 44-year-old Westside woman bitten by a shark Tuesday at Jacksonville Beach.

Mihaela Cosa (pictured below) was in knee-deep water playing with a dog just after 11 a.m. at 34 Avenue South when she was bitten on the foot.

Cosa is now home recovering after receiving 21 stitches. She said she doesn't have feeling in her pinky toe but hopes it will come back as her foot starts to heal.

Meanwhile, Quinton White, a marine biologist at Jacksonville University, offered some advice Wednesday about how beachgoers can avoid being bitten.

White said using common sense is the first thing. He said what happened to Cosa is rare but can happen to anyone because sharks are everywhere in the ocean.

Mihaela Cosa
Mihaela Cosa

Bud Obermeyer and his wife caught several tiny shovelhead sharks while fishing on the Jacksonville Beach Pier on Wednesday. Obermeyer said while the sharks may be small, they can do some damage with their teeth.

"Everyone just throws them back," he said. "I don't think that any big ones have been caught yet, but again, we're just getting into the summer."

And with the first shark bite of the year in Duval County already on the books, White said there are a few things swimmers can do to try to stay safe.

He said they should stay away from fishing piers or fishermen because their bait attracts fish, including sharks.

"I'd avoid them not only because of the fact that they're baiting and bringing things in, but also, I don't want to be around the hook and people fishing," White said. "The surf, someone swings that hook and line around, you may get yourself hooked, and common sense plays a role in that."

Obermeyer agrees. Last year he and his wife caught five to six blacktip sharks that were 5- to 6-feet long right off the pier.

"We tried warning the surfers out in the water because we were catching them two to three feet away from where the surfers were sitting, and they didn't care," Obermeyer said. "We even hollered, 'Sharks!' And they didn't care."

Experts said it's best to leave the shiny jewelry at home because what lurks beneath the water is attracted to it.

Lastly, White said don't go into the water if the surf is rough. The red flags were up Wednesday, signaling high risk.

"The turbulence makes it harder for you to see things," he said. "Also, it makes it harder for the shark to see things. Sharks aren't using visual cues most of the time, they're using either sound vibrations or some type of chemical cue to attack."

White said someone is more likely to get hit by a car than be bitten by a shark.