With 7 shark attacks in past month, North Carolina grasps for solutions

The recent surge in shark attacks represents an 80-year high for the North Carolina coast.

Chuck Burton/AP
Vacationers walk in the surf in Oak Island, N.C., Monday, June 15, the day after a 12-year-old girl from Asheboro lost part of her arm and suffered a leg injury, and a 16-year-old boy from Colorado lost his left arm about an hour later and 2 miles away in two separate shark attacks off Oak Island.

Safety officials are trying to find patterns in shark attacks on the North Carolina coast following seven run-ins in the past three weeks off the state’s coast.

Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday that local governments could consider restrictions on baiting for sharks around areas where people swim, especially during the summer season.

"We're still looking for a pattern," Governor McCrory said. "I am going to be talking to my secretary of public safety to see if there is any one fit-all approach to dealing with this issue. I doubt there is because each circumstance is so different."

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History's International Shark Attack File, the recent seven shark attacks represent an 80-year high for the state’s coast. The museum’s 2014 shark attack summary mentioned that increases of shark attacks near the Carolinas were consistent with gradual increases in recent years.

Most of this year's North Carolina shark attacks happened in shallow water. The latest incident occurred Wednesday when former Boston Herald editor-in-chief Andrew Costello was bitten repeatedly while wading off Ocracoke Island on the state's Outer Banks. 

“With this high number of attacks over such a short period of time, there is clearly something going on in that area worthy of looking into,” Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries told Boston Herald. “Now we’re getting to the point where you’ve got seven attacks in one month, and from a scientific point of view, it is intriguing and I think it warrants investigation.”

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.

As the Monitor previously reported, "shiny jewelry can attract sharks, as the reflected light resembles shiny fish scales, and colorful swimwear also tends to appeal to sharks."

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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