A 12-year-old boy is recovering in a hospital after police say he was bitten by a shark in the waters off northeast Florida.
Police say the boy, who lives in Sparks, Ga., suffered significant injuries to his leg after the attack Sunday afternoon at Fernandina Beach. Police say Josh Bitner Jr. was in waist-deep water when he felt the bite near his knee.
Bitner told The Florida Times-Union something grabbed his leg, turned him around and bit him again. He says he punched the shark, then grabbed its top fin and pulled it out of the water and started yelling "shark!"
Bitner was treated by paramedics at the scene and taken to a hospital in Jacksonville for treatment.
This was the first shark bite reported in Fernandina Beach this year. But another was reported Sunday at Vilano Beach, plus two more Thursday at Jacksonville Beach and Little Talbot Island, bringing the total to seven in Northeast Florida since June.
The number can be blamed on bait fish like mullet, International Shark Attack File Curator George Burgess said. Mullet leave local rivers to spawn in the ocean in late summer. So when sharks, barracudas and other predators “create havoc” as they head for the free food along the shore, it may be time to avoid the surf, Burgess said.
“You have an unholy soup of mullets, sharks and humans, and it is a formula for what we have this time of year,” said Burgess at Gainesville’s Florida Museum of Natural History. “We are visitors to the sea and when we visit, we have to be a bit more careful because there are more fish around. One of the ‘do’s’ is to avoid any situation when [bait] fish are seen in the water or birds are diving to catch them.”
The Shark Attack file reports 16 shark bites this year in Florida.
After a spate of shark attacks earlier this summer in North Carolina, The Christian Science Monitor reported:
Globally, some 75 people are involved in unprovoked shark attacks each year, about 10 of which result in death, according to Florida Museum of Natural History. In the United States, there are about 19 shark attacks per year with roughly one fatality every two years.
Swimmers can take certain steps to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of a shark attack by swimming in groups and taking care to avoid entering the water when bleeding, experts say.
People can decrease the chance of becoming a victim of a shark attack by being proactive about their own safety. Florida Museum of Natural History has some tips: Swim in a group since sharks most often attack lone individuals. Sharks can smell and taste blood, so do not enter the water bleeding.