MANTEO, N.C. – An increased number of shark bites have some people on edge about swimming in the ocean. What would you do if you encountered a shark?
Experts at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island said sharks are not out to hunt us, but they will bite if you are in their territory or if they do not know what you are.
Marine specialists said, often, once the shark takes a bite it will realize you are not on its food chain and it will move on. If you start to thrash around, that is what puts you in danger.
A person swimming, a leg hanging off a surf board or an arm thrashing in the water can easily look like a food source to sharks, according to Husbandry Curator Christian Legner.
Legner works closely with the shark in the aquarium shark tank and said they do exhibit behavior found in the wild in their new environment. Mating and picking off fish that are sick or old is common in the tank, which in the wild keeps the fish supplies stocked just right.
Sharks that we find off the East Coast; sand tigers, sand bar, nurse sharks, bull sharks and white tips, can be found as shallow as 1 meter, or as deep as 200 meters. They feed on different species of fish or seals.
Doctors and marine specialists said the Bull shark that bit Jessica Brothers in Surf City, N.C. back in 2011 was exploring when he took a bite out of her calf, leaving her with a huge scar and jagged teeth fragments under her skin to this day.
Brothers told News 3’s Rachael Cardin she felt like she had been hit in the water with a baseball bat because the impact did not feel like a bite.
After seeing the blood and realizing it was a shark bite, she went to the ER. 127 stitches later, she said she’s grateful she can tell the story. “I’m really lucky the fact that I still have a leg and it still works,” she said.
Brothers still swims in the ocean all the time. She said she loves living at the beach and is accepting of the fact that when she swims, she could be swimming with sharks; “I think it’s an inherent risk, if you go in the ocean there is always a bigger fish.”
According to the International Shark Attack File, there were 98 shark bites worldwide in 2015. That number is 26 reported bites higher than 2014. More than 10 happened along the Carolina coastline, but none of those bites were fatal.
Legner warns swimmers to avoid piers where sharks often congregate to eat unintentional chum discarded by fishermen. She said sharks feed at daybreak and as the sun is setting so it is best to be out of the water as those times as added precaution.