Shark Nibbles On 13-Year-Old in New Smyrna, FL

By on September 2, 2014

(From Headline Surfer)
NEW SMYRNA BEACH — A 13-year-old girl from Boca Raton was bitten on the calf by a shark while body surfing Sunday afternoon in waist-deep water, a beach safety official said. “The bite caused a small puncture wound,”Capt. Tamra Marris, spokeswoman for the Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue, told Headline Surfer®. “The shark was not seen by anyone.” But the bite mark was unmistakable, she said. The victim as treated on scene at 4:38 p.m. by lifeguards.

This was the sixth bite incident of the year involving a shark, and like most of the others near the South Jetty, just south of Ponce Inlet, where the surf is more pronounced and where spinner, tiger and black tip sharks, typically 3- to 6-feet in length congregate for the bait fish.Sharks often mistake a surfer’s foot, ankle, thigh, calf, arm or hand for a bait fish and clamp on, Marris said.

When they realize it’s not the desired bait fish, they let go, she said. Swimmers or surfers are more likely to encounter sharks on the Atlantic coastline of the Sunshine State south of Daytona, though there have been occasional shark bite incidents at the World’s Most Famous Beach® in Daytona and Ormond Beach. And while Volusia County is known as the “Shark Bite Capital of the World” the locale where most of those interactions with sharks has become infamous.

“New Smyrna Beach is the most common place to encounter sharks not only in the United States, but in the world,” said George Burgess, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File. Florida has averaged 21 unprovoked shark attacks over the past 10 years. With nearly 300 total shark attacks from 2004 to 2013, Florida tops the charts for the place with the highest shark activity, according to data from the International Shark Attack File.

A shark attack in Hawaii was the nation’s only fatality last year while Australia and Réunion each had two shark attack deaths. Brazil, Diego Garcia, Jamaica, New Zealand and South Africa each had one shark attack fatality. The black tip shark has been identified as the type of shark most likely responsible for bite incident in the southeastern U.S., including here in New Smyrna Beach, Burgess said., because they eat fish and shrimp. And like Volusia County beach safety spokeswoman Marris indicated, the biting of a person in the surf often is a case of mistaken identity, known as a “hit and run” attack. It is where the shark wrongly perceives human movement as that of their normal prey. When clamping on with the teeth, the shark immediately lets go, recognizing it’s not the intended prey.

The great white sharks are more commonly found in northern coastal waters, though one was spotted in these waters earlier this year because a tracking device was pinned on it in Massachusetts last year. Fatal shark attacks are rare though they have occurred in Southern California and in the Gulf of Mexico.

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