Environment

Sharks are here for the winter, researchers say. This is what you should know

The snowbirds are coming.

Except these snowbirds have fins, rows of razor-sharp teeth, and keep on moving lest they die.

Yep, sharks, and their annual migration to warmer waters off the Florida and Carolinas coasts, says research group OCEARCH.

“The coast of Florida is starting to heat up with white shark activity. Adult male Sydney is now the third white shark we’ve tracked off the Sunshine State’s coast this season. He’s about 50 miles off Daytona Beach,” OCEARCH posted on Twitter Wednesday.

Eight white sharks tagged by the Utah-based research group OCEARCH were spotted from New Jersey to Florida in the last week, reported the Palm Beach Post.

Three other sharks that had been tagged were detected Wednesday in waters on North Carolina beaches and two more sharks —Helena and the 2,076-pound Unama’ki —made their presence known with grins just west of Key West in September.

Unama’ki had been tagged off Nova Scotia in September. She’s a big girl —some 15-feet, 5-inches, said OCEARCH.

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In general, there’s not a lot to fear here.

“For decades, Florida has topped the charts for worldwide shark attacks and the trend continued in 2018, according to the International Shark Attack File tracked by the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History. “Florida’s 16 cases represent 50% of the U.S. total.”

North and South Carolina accounted for six of those unprovoked shark attacks between them in 2018.

But none were fatal in Florida. And the number of unprovoked attacks are on the decline, according to the Florida Museum.

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“The 16 unprovoked shark attacks in Florida were significantly lower than the most recent five-year annual average of 30 incidents,” the Shark Attack File noted. At four, Volusia County had the most shark attacks, a quarter of Florida’s total. And that number is also lower than the most recent five-year annual average of 10 incidents, according to the tracking group

The other unprovoked shark incidents in 2018 happened in Brevard (three), Nassau (two) and St. Lucie (two) counties. There were single incidents in Palm Beach, Monroe, Duval, Pinellas and St. Johns counties. A surfer was also bitten by a shark in Lake Worth in September 2017.

“What the public needs to do is become informed about these animals, understand their behavior patterns and listen to the guidelines issued by beach safety patrols,” Florida Museum research director Gavin Naylor told the Miami Herald in January.

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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