Shark attacks on the rise, say scientists

Posted at 5:37 PM, May 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-31 06:38:02-04
Shark attacks are on the rise, and leading scientists believe 2016 could bring another record year.
According to the International Shark Attack File housed in the University of Florida, there were 98 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2015, setting a record. 30 of those attacks were in Florida.
This year, we could go into triple-digits.
“We should have more bites this year than last,” said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida shortly before the Memorial Day holiday weekend that signals the unofficial start of America’s summer vacation – and beach – season.
On the same weekend, there were two shark bites in the United States, including a 13-year-old boy bitten on Neptune Beach near Jacksonville, Florida.
The other was a woman bitten at a beach in Orange County, California.
Both victims are expected to survive.
"Out in the wild, especially in murky water, if there's people fishing in the area, the shark might swim up and take what's called an "exploratory bite" because they don't know what it is, and frequently with shark attacks that's what you see," explains Mike Terrell, the Director of Husbandry at the Florida Aquarium.
Florida Aquarium has several sharks -- visitors can even swim with the sharks, as Terrell sometimes does as well.
"Yeah my name tag does say 'I swim with sharks' it's one of my favorite activities here. There's nothing more exciting than being able to go in the water and see these creatures face to face."
The Florida Aquarium says they've never had an incident of someone getting bitten by a shark. Terrell says that's because all the animals at the aquarium see people all the time and so they know they're not a source of food.
But he says there's no reason people can't swim with sharks in the wild, as long as they follow some simple steps:
  • Only swim during the day (not dawn or dusk or night)
  • Don't swim near fishing activities 
  • Swim in clear water if you can (if a shark sees you, it's more likely to swim away)
Terrell says if people follow those steps, there's no reason to swim in fear.
"As a father of two young boys I can absolutely relate," says Terrell of the fear stoked by the recent attack in Florida. "But also as a father of two young boys I wouldn't hesitate sending my boys into the water."