Experts weigh in on shark attacks -, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Experts weigh in on shark attacks

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The shark attacks just across the border in Oak Island, North Carolina have some people in Myrtle Beach wondering whether the waters are safe.

Panicked 9-1-1 calls revealed one of the victims, the 12-year-old girl was by a pier. 

Through the day, fisherman cast their lines out and dump chum into the water by piers. That attracts sharks, and experts say that is why you should never swim close to a pier- but people do it all the time.

"We always recommend people stay away from fishing piers," according to Ashley Hartness, the Senior Biologist at Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach. "People are cleaning their fish, that chums the water. And that would bring sharks attentions in."

Fishermen said they're seeing more sharks in the area of the pier over the last few days. 

"This guy pulled in two [sharks] yesterday, I seen two of them yesterday," said Fisherman Dylan Gallman. 

People around town seek answers into why two teens were so severely injured so close to the Grand Strand.

"You can't explain it," Timothy Hartley said. "There's a lot of people in the water, a lot of bait in the water. When you get that many people, mother nature's going to do what it does."

Coastal Carolina University Professor of Marine Science, Dan Abel, said there is a difference between a shark bite and a shark attack. 

When beachgoers have run-ins with sharks along the coast, it's usually a bite, not an attack. Bites are mostly harmless, and at most require stitches. But what happened in Oak Island Sunday, Abel said, was an attack.

"The two that happened yesterday could have been the same individual shark that just was going along the coastline and bumped into another person," Hartness said.

Multiple experts agreed that both incidents happened within such a close proximity suggests it likely was the same shark in each case.

Hartness said as far as determining the type of shark, it's too early to tell. 

"Typically in this area, you would have bull sharks and tiger sharks. The species has yet to be determined. A shark is coming in to feed on what it naturally would feed on. And we just happen to be in the same area and we get bit accidentally."

Hartless and Abel agreed it's very difficult to determine a species from a shark bite, and we may never find out. Experts also said it shouldn't keep beach-lovers away from the ocean.

There are things swimmers do in the ocean every day that make them more susceptible to being attacked or bitten by a shark. Sharks don't try to attack or bite humans. When they do, experts say it's a case of mistaken identity.

Sharks natural hunting times are around dusk and dawn, so swimmers should not be in the water at these times. Also, at night, when you can't see what's in the water around you, a shark may mistake you for food.

Ever notice dark shadows in the water? Those aren't caused by the sun. Those are schools of fish- they do come close to shore sometimes and swimmers may see the fish jumping out of the water. They need to stay away from the schools. 

"Usually those fish are being schooled together in a tighter ball, and then being pushed in whatever direction a larger predator is moving them," according to Hartless.

Some ladies love jewelry, but experts explained when flashy and shiny jewelry is in the ocean, it reflects light like a fish in the water. 

Sharks have good eyesight so they can see the glint from a good distance away. Experts say it's best to leave the bling on the beach.

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