George Burgess, director of the Florida Program of Shark Research and keeper of the International Shark Attack File, has combed through incident data to devise some strategies to avoid encounters with the apex predators.
From his basement office at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, situated roughly one hundred miles northwest of Volusia County, a.k.a the "shark-bite capital" of the world, Burgess plainly attributed a rise in shark attacks to a rise in human activity in the ocean.
Burgess pointed out that the combination of warm ocean waters and droves of surfers, swimmers and tourists has prompted the trend of more shark encounters. According the International Shark Attack File, Florida has averaged 21 bites annually over the last ten years. "Humans are just simply pushing the equation," Burgess said. "Sharks plus humans equals attack."
Here Burgess details the 2013 Florida Shark Attack Report, compiled by the University of Florida and the Florida Museum of Natural History:
Burgess revealed that surfers are most at risk - "The typical attack victim in Florida is a young, white male between the ages of 14 and 24, which is the demographic of what you see surfing most of the time." And while Burgess said that surfers "play at their own tune," he added he has never interviewed one who was attacked who displayed any ill will toward a shark.
Capt. Tamra Marris, of Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue, confirmed that five attacks have been logged so far this year.
Floridians of Cocoa Beach help a shark:
As for tips for avoiding an attack, Burgess said that timing is important, as sharks are most active at dawn and dusk. "We enter the water beginning late-morning hours, have the peak of our activity in the afternoon and trail off as we go back home for dinner," Burgess said. "Amazingly enough, the number of attacks follows that pattern precisely." Early morning and late-night swims should be avoided.
Burgess also suggested to stay in groups, to not swim near fishermen and to avoid wearing shiny objects in the water.
Image via Wikimedia Commons