Chilling theories why shark attack victims have been targeted in waist-high waters after five maulings off US beaches | The Sun
AT least 24 shark attacks have already been reported in the US this year and the number looks set to grow.
Shocking data reveals that more than 80 per cent of the attacks occurred on the East Coast.
Five attacks were reported on Long Island over a two-week period.
A surfer and a tourist were bitten within hours on July 13, two lifeguards were bitten during training exercises, and a swimmer reportedly suffered a laceration while in the water.
Experts have pointed out several factors which can explain why shark attacks are taking place along the East Coast.
The oceans are cleaner now after legislation was introduced by Congress in the 1970s to limit dumping that could adversely harm marine life.
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Populations of the sandbar and dusky sharks are rising in the northeastern US and millions are returning to the beaches after years away amid the Covid pandemic.
The beasts, which eat seals, can confuse the animal for humans when approaching the shoreline.
Chris Paparo, who has worked with sharks for more than 20 years, told The Sun that the shallower marine environment along the East Coast allows the beasts to thrive.
He said: “With sharks being an apex predator, they need a healthy environment to survive.
"They are not able to get by in sub-par conditions."
A 1970 report from the Council of Environment Quality revealed that a whopping 38 million tons of dredged material were dumped into America's oceans.
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And, almost 34,000 containers of radioactive waste were dumped at three different sites on the East Coast from 1951-62.
More than 4.5 million tons of industrial waste were also dumped in the oceans.
Experts said that oxygen concentrations plummeted in the New York Bight because sewage and sludge were being dumped.
Lawmakers in 1972 passed the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act mandating governments to regulate the dumping of material that would "adversely" affect human and marine life.
The Atlantic Ocean is shallower compared to the Pacific, and rivers such as the Hudson supply nutrients that fuel marine life such as phytoplankton, plankton, and small fish.
Sharks are notorious for swarming bays and estuaries along the East Coast to find food.
The predators also control the seal population, which has boomed off the coast of Cape Cod.
Sharks migrate to warmer waters in the summer, increasing the prospect of an attack when the predators interact with curious swimmers.
PEOPLE FLOCKING TO THE BEACH
But, Paparo said warmer waters “affect the diversity of the shark population".
He said: “In New York State, we’re getting an influx of southern species but our local species are heading north."
Explaining why attacks are taking place, Paparo said: "It just comes down to a numbers game."
He said: "The math shows that if you have more sharks and people are returning to the beach after years of being away, then there will be more interactions."
Long Island has been rocked by a series of shark attacks over the past two weeks.
Surfer Shawn Donnelly, 41, was knocked off his board when a sand Tiger shark attacked off the coast of Smith Point Beach on July 13.
He was left with a four-inch gash wound to the leg.
Donnelly revealed he punched the shark to fend off the beast.
He told NBC New York: “It got my left calf and knocked me off my board… when I was falling off my board, I saw the fin and its back.”
Donnelly managed to ride a wave that returned him to shore.
Paparo said the surf zone on Smith Point Beach was muddy as the wind had been blowing for around two to three days before the attack.
He said: “The ocean had churned up to the point where it looked like chocolate milk.
“Sharks can’t really see what was going on. I’d have guessed there was something dangling that it bumped into.
“And, if you’re a surfer and wearing a black suit, you look like a seal.
“When we’re swimming, we’re clumsy and a surfer almost fits the profile of what a shark might want to eat – a sick or injured seal.”
SPATE OF ATTACKS
Hours after Donnely was attacked, a man, 49, was taken to hospital after being bitten on the wrist and buttocks by a shark at Seaview Beach.
John Mullins was mauled by a tiger shark on July 7.
He was participating in lifeguard training on Fire Island when the beast attacked.
The attack left John with foot injuries. He was taken to hospital where he received several stitches.
He was about 150 feet offshore in Ocean Beach when he was mauled.
Paparo said: “Sharks can pick up on the electric-like pulses humans give off when they’re struggling and splashing in the water.
“Sharks are curious. They are going to go and investigate. Sharks don’t have hands, so they’re going to investigate with their mouth.”
Meanwhile, another lifeguard Zach Gallo, was attacked on July 3 near Smith Point Beach.
He was participating in a training exercise when he was reportedly bitten in the chest and hand by the beast.
He was then immediately rushed to the hospital, where he received stitches.
A 57-year-old man reportedly suffered a laceration on June 30 while swimming off Jones Beach.
But, park officials told NBC4NY that they were unaware of a shark attack.
The incident prompted authorities to increase patrols at all Nassau County beaches over the July 4 weekend.
More than a dozen shark attacks have been reported in Florida this year alone.
A six-foot-long beast bit a surfer on his foot at New Smyrna Beach on July 10.
It came just a week after a man, 28, had his left foot bitten while riding the waves at the same beach.
The popular beach resort has been dubbed the shark capital of the world.
Two men in their early twenties, a fisherman and a surfer, suffered bites to their legs and feet in March.
Florida teen Addison Bethea, 17, was forced to get her leg amputated after being savaged by a shark.
She was scalloping with her brother when the predator pounced.
And, mom-of-two Lindsay Bruns was left with a half-circle-shaped wound following an attack in June.
But, Paparo doesn't think we are entering a "new normal" despite the spate of attacks that have been recorded.
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He said: "If the population is going to increase, then we're going to probably see more interactions.
"But, if there are no sharks, there are no attacks."
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