A 21-year-old man was bitten by a shark in a part of Florida unofficially known as the “Shark Bite Capital of the World” earlier this week. It was the first shark bite of the year in the area.
The man, who is from New Jersey, was bitten while fishing in waist-deep water at New Smyrna Beach, Florida, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Although he was bitten on the knee and calf, the man was not transported to the hospital by ambulance, Ocean Rescue Captain Tamra Malphurs said.
Florida And Shark Bites
Florida, as has been the case for several years, once again led the world as the place where the most shark bites occurred last year. In fact, in 2021, there were 28 unprovoked shark bites in Florida compared to 19 shark bites in the rest of the U.S., and 26 outside of the U.S., according to data published by the Florida Museum of Natural History in its annual International Shark Attack File (ISAF).
Interestingly, of Florida’s 28 unprovoked shark bites, 17 took place in Volusia County, which includes Daytona Beach. That’s also where the man from New Jersey was bitten this week.
The ISAF explains that there are two reasons why so many unprovoked shark bites occur in Florida. First, Florida has the second-highest rate of population growth in the U.S., the ISAF notes, which means there are a lot of people in Florida. Secondly, going to the beach is an increasingly popular activity. The combination means the number of people at beaches in Florida continues to grow quickly.
The good news is that, while there are more shark bites in Volusia County than anywhere else in the world, most aren’t serious. What’s more, it’s still highly unlikely beach goers in the area will be bitten by a shark.
“You’re far more likely to get involved in a fender bender driving to New Smyrna Beach,” said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, according to Spectrum News 13.
Where Shark Bites Take Place
Most shark bites take place in and around surf zones. “This thin strip of water, where inbound waves that may have traveled for hundreds of miles finally snag on the rising coastal sea floor and topple over, creates the perfect environment for surfers and sharks alike,” the ISAF explains.
“Marine coasts and estuaries are a favorite feeding ground for a variety of fishes, which take advantage of the tides to scope out new food and rummage near the shallow seafloor for plants and invertebrates,” the ISAF continues. “These smaller fishes, in turn, attract sharks, which sometimes mistake humans for prey.”
In the case of Volusia County, the Ponce de Leon Inlet has a strong tidal flow, which leads to more baitfish in the area, Naylor explains. Sharks then visit the area to feed on the high numbers of baitfish.
How To Stay Safe In The Ocean
The odds may be against being bitten by a shark, but at the same time, it certainly makes sense to take steps to further decrease those chances.
The ISAF lists a number of suggestions to reduce the probability of being bitten by a shark, including to avoid splashing in open water because sharks may mistake that activity for a struggling fish. Other tips to avoid the risk of being bitten by a shark are to stay close to shore, don’t swim around schools of fish or where people are fishing, and avoid swimming at dusk or dawn.
You can find more tips for being safe and decreasing the chances of being bitten by a shark here.
If you’d like to learn more about shark bites, as well as how to avoid them, be sure to read: