The recent shark bites in North Carolina is indeed tragic. My prayers go out to the two teenagers who both lost limbs just hours apart while enjoying the ocean. But before we go on a shark hunt, lets take a deeper look at that day.
I have been to several beaches along the North Carolina shore. They are exquisite-warm, not too rough, on a calm day they can almost mimic the Caribbean waters. People of all ages take surfing lessons, couples stand up paddle a mile out, thousands of people cool off from the sweltering heat. I’ve seen sharks swim right along the shore. Last summer, in fact, while watching dolphins fish out in the distance, a large shark about 7 feet long swam in the crest of a wave right in between people bobbing in the water.
“Did you see that?” my friend sitting next to me exclaimed as a middle-age woman fled the water and silently mouthed, “Shark!” to her husband.
“Yeah,” I replied as the shark meandered on, the other swimmers completely oblivious.
Truth is, that those of us who love the ocean may have had a shark pass by at some point. If you watch the tagged sharks on Ocearch, you may very well see large great whites coming near your favorite beach. I know I have, several times. Twitter sensation @MaryLeeShark is a frequent visitor to the North Carolina waters where I go.
So what went wrong on June off of Oak Island? A perfect storm. According to local ABC11 EyewitnessNews, fisherman were shark fishing off a local pier, inviting sharks to feed with bloody chum. It was late in the afternoon. Perhaps the water was a bit murky. Those sharks were most likely pumped up to eat and they feasted on what was in the water.
The Raleigh, North Carolina area is booming. Forbes and other magazines have rated it the number one city to find a job. And guess where those relocated people go to relax-the North Carolina shores. Once again, man versus nature and it’s complications is in front of us.
Knowing North Carolina, there are probably local residents who have been shark fishing on those piers for generations. It’s not easy to just end a common practice. Hopefully, the local leaders and residents can work something out with shark scientists. Luckily, there are some really good ones now.
In the meanwhile, we can take the advice of shark researchers this summer. A brochure is available from @SeaGrantNC and @NOAAFish_SERO put together these tips.
Update: A seventh victim of multiple shark bites In North Carolina was reported yesterday, July 1st. Here is the latest from shark experts via Ocearch: link.
Susan Allison-Dean is a writer and dolphin/whale advocate. Her women's fiction novels include issues affecting marine life.