Florida is a popular destination because of its sunny beaches. It is also called the “shark attack capital of the world“. One might think this is because of the high number of beaches there as compared to other states, but Florida also has a unique biodiversity as compared to most other places in the United States, especially when it comes to marine life.
There is a reason the peninsula is so favored by human populations. Florida is just the right temperature all year round with just the right amount of precipitation to harbor a wide variety of life, and nowhere is this more abundant than along the endless Floridian coastline. These waters are also home to many sharks, such as the Great White and Bull sharks.
Sharks are apex predators. As such, they can be very dangerous when they come into contact with humans. A lot of sharks hunt in shallow waters near the warm coastline. That also happens to be where most people go swimming. There are a lot of misconceptions about shark attacks, so it is important to stay aware for your own safety.
The Sharks of Florida
The water around Florida is the perfect temperature with the right kind of nutrients to harbor a wide variety of fish. There are at least 15 types of sharks you might find in Florida, with only some of them being a potential threat. We will discuss three of the most common ones.
Bull Sharks are a formidable species of shark found in warm coastal waters and rivers around the world. They are apex predators that have a varied diet, consisting of fish, dolphins, turtles, and even other sharks. They are also one of the few shark species that can tolerate freshwater, allowing them to swim far upriver in search of prey.
While Bull Sharks are not as widely feared as Great Whites, they are responsible for a significant number of attacks on humans each year. Found all across Florida, it is important to avoid these predators whenever possible.
Great White Shark
Great white sharks are one of the largest predatory fish species in the world and are found in coastal waters in many parts of the world. They are known for their size, power, and their iconic triangular dorsal fin.
While great white sharks have a fearsome reputation, they are not generally considered to be a significant threat to humans. Attacks on humans are rare, and most attacks are believed to be cases of mistaken identity, with the shark mistaking the human for its usual prey.
Black-tip sharks inhabit coastal tropical waters around the world. They are named for the distinctive black tips on their fins, which are especially prominent on the first dorsal and the pectoral fins.
These sharks are generally not considered dangerous to humans, although they have been known to bite in certain situations, such as when they are provoked or feel threatened. They are by no means the most dangerous on this list, but it is best to know what to watch out for.
Deadly Spots In Florida
Some of the world’s most dangerous beaches are found across America, with Florida taking the obvious lead in shark attacks. Although most of these beaches are dangerous for far more reasons than just shark attacks, we will be going over a couple of cities and beaches known for the large number of shark attacks that have happened there.
New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach is a city located on the east coast of Florida, about 15 miles south of Daytona Beach and 50 miles northeast of Orlando.
The city is known for its beautiful beaches, surfing, and small-town charm. Additionally, New Smyrna has also been crowned the shark bite capital of the world due to it seeing record numbers of shark bites year after year.
Not too far from the city are marine biodiversity hotspots, such as the Canaveral National Seashore among others, which would explain the high number of sharks. It also doesn’t help that New Smyrna has the distinction of being one of the best surfing destinations in the country.
Ormond Beach is a city located in Volusia County, Florida, United States, on the east coast of Florida. The city is situated just north of Daytona Beach and south of Flagler Beach and has a population of approximately 41,000 people.
The city is also home to several parks and nature preserves, including the Tomoka State Park which offers hiking, camping, and boating opportunities, and the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail, a 30-mile scenic drive through natural and historic sites.
Ormond Beach is popular among surfers both for its waves as well as the high number of accidents that take place there. Although never fatal, there have been a number of incidents on the beach over the years, including shark attacks. It mostly happens to people who are new to the area, which is all the more reason to stay informed.
Sharks have been thriving in Florida waters for millions of years. They have been keeping the balance of different marine ecosystems as apex predators, which in turn help our ecosystems function as well. There is no way to rid the world of sharks without dire consequences for everyone involved, so it is important that we learn how to coexist with them.
In Florida, sharks typically move toward the coast during the spring and summer, which also happens to be the time with the most human activity on beaches. Considering that, it is surprising the number of incidents isn’t higher.
In autumn, as the days start getting colder and people don’t go swimming as much, sharks also move southward into the open seas. Although there are sharks that stay near the coast all year round, especially in brackish waters around the peninsula. Hence, the chances of you encountering a shark are almost never zero.
How To Avoid Sharks
Contrary to popular belief, sharks don’t actively hunt humans. Humans aren’t part of any shark’s diet or something a shark would go out of their way to pursue, so it isn’t that hard to avoid sharks.
The reason most people get attacked by sharks is that they have somehow agitated the shark or tricked it into thinking that they are a fish it likes to eat. This can happen for a number of reasons, from being in the water with low visibility to the shark mistaking the shape of your surfboard for a fish.
Here are some tips from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on how to avoid shark bites:
- Don’t swim alone. Sharks are more likely to avoid groups of swimmers.
- Swim only in areas where a lifeguard is present.
- Don’t wander too far off the shore. The closer you are to assistance, the likelier you are to survive.
- Sharks are most active during dawn and dusk, so avoid going swimming then.
- Never enter the water when bleeding. Sharks can smell blood from very long distances.
- Avoid wearing shiny jewelry, which can resemble the sheen of fish scales.
- Avoid waters with a lot of baitfish. An area with a high concentration of diving seabirds is usually ripe with fish that sharks love to eat.
- Avoid waters with low visibility.
- Sharks can see contrast particularly well, meaning uneven tans or bright-colored clothing may draw their attention.
- Don’t let pets in the water as splashing can also attract sharks.
- If you spot a shark, it is best to avoid it.
What To Do In Case Of A Shark Attack
Experts inform us that sharks aren’t particularly fond of or used to attacking humans. One could use this to their advantage, as the best thing you can do when confronted by a shark is to avoid it entirely.
Sharks are most active during times of low light, which means the chances of you encountering one during a daytime swim are very low. And even if you do, the shark is most likely going to be curious rather than bloodthirsty.
As apex predators, sharks are highly reliant on their instincts to hunt. In order to not trigger sharks, one must remain calm and collected, and not make any sudden movements. Thrashing, splashing, or displacing too much water can be interpreted as fear by the shark and could trigger an attack.
Sharks are also ambush predators, meaning their main modus operandi is to sneak up on their targets. If you start to get circled by a shark, it is important to not panic and follow the shark with your body facing it. This lets the shark know that it is in full view, which means it won’t feel comfortable enough to attack. When swimming away from the shark, never turn your back on it and always move slowly.
Sharks are a very important species for the health of our oceans, and as such must be protected. Despite their scary reputation, they present a very minor threat to our lives. A shark is way more likely to be scared of you than the other way around.
The number of deaths caused by shark attacks annually is less than 10, whereas around 73 million sharks are killed for their meat, fins, cartilage, and liver oil all year round. The small number of attacks that do take place are often a case of mistaken identity, where the sharks mistake swimmers for their prey or are curious about what a human is.
In order to avoid provoking sharks, it is important to understand what compels them to attack. Sharks are majestic beings that have been here longer than us and will continue to be here long after we are gone. It is important to look after them, just as they look after our oceans.