Shark Attacks Still on the Rise in the Carolinas

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Three more people were attacked by sharks off the coast of the Carolinas this weekend. The Associated Press and Charlotte Observer report that a 17-year-old boy swimming in North Carolina’s Outer Banks was bitten yesterday, and two men were struck on Friday — one in Avon, North Carolina, and the other near Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. None of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries, but there have now been seven unprovoked shark attacks across two weeks in the region, six of which happened in North Carolina. So far, none of the encounters have been fatal, though two teenagers lost limbs in attacks earlier this month.

Last week, National Geographic’s Brian Clark Howard spoke with shark biologist Frank J. Schwartz, who pointed out that North Carolina typically averages two attacks a year, though there were four in 2014. Howard also looked into why we’re seeing an uptick in shark activity this year:

The incidents are heavily dependent on weather and currents and are much more likely when the water temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius) and when strong currents flow north along the coast, bringing bait fish. This year, those conditions appeared in April, and sharks soon followed, coming from Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

Schwartz insists that the risk of a shark attack remains extraordinarily low statistically, with most bites happening in unlucky situations where “there is bait nearby and someone just gets in the way.” Furthermore, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, rising shark attacks correspond more to the “ever-increasing amount of time spent in the sea by humans” than any other factor.