Staying safe from sharks during summer

Recent shark bites in North Carolina raises safety concerns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two separate shark attacks off the coast of North Carolina have left one teenager without a limb and as summer gets into full swing, more and more people will be hitting the water, and a local shark expert wants to make sure swimmers stay safe.

Dr. Jim Gelsleighter is an associate professor in biology at the University of North who said that the waters off northeast Florida aren't that different from North Carolina and there are some things swimmers need to know.

Gelsleighter is a shark expert and he said that it's extremely rare to hear about two vicious bites within roughly an hour of one another. 

"People have asked a number of questions about this because it's rare to have successive attacks in one day. People have asked if it's the same animal. That's relatively unlikely, we don't have information for that," Gelsleighter said. 

Gelsleichter said typically, North Carolina averages around one to five bites per year and northeast Florida runs about the same rate. But with extremely high temperatures, the sharks can be more prevalent in water as shallow as waist deep, which is where the children in North Carolina were.

"We have the same sort of situation the North Carolina beaches have. We have a seasonal shark population that increases in the summers when a lot of people are using the water. And so the chances for similar events are very common," Gelsleichter said.

There are a few things Gelsleichter said you can do to keep safe:

- Don't swim alone

- Don't swim too far from shore

- Don't swim during active times for sharks, which is when they're feeding, usually dusk and dawn

"But to be honest, with all of this advice, we have to remember that the sea is the shark's world. And unfortunately we have a lot of people in the water, a lot of shark in the water and that's a recipe for things like this to occur," Gelsleichter said.

Gelsleichter also said that the waters south of Flagler County are where the number of shark bites typically began to increase, just a warning to viewers in our more southern regions.