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Be wary of sharks common in Florida, surrounding areas.

     I read a recent article entitled, “Experts offer tips to avoid sharks,” by Gina Zanutto. In it, Michael Hellberg, professor of coral and ocean studies said statistically, sharks will not attack you. But he does point out common activities that that attract sharks such as: surfing or wad-fishing, the action of fishing while walking the bed of a stream.

     Activities that mostly include large amounts of thrashing can prove to be extremely dangerous and increase your chances of being a victim of these large creatures. Blacktips and bull sharks are the most common in Florida attacks. To examine these sharks further, the following information can help a person steer clear of the fearful mammal.

     The Blacktip shark, most frequently found in large schools, can be found around geographic areas such as the Bahamas and Florida. According to an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) article published June 2002, this species is responsible for “hit and run” attacks occurring on humans. Blacktips prefer shallow and occasionally brackish waters. It has been known to attack humans, but does not pose a serious threat.

     The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) has only recorded, “11 unprovoked blacktip reef shark attacks on humans since 1959,” said Michelle Press who reported on the Biological Profile of Blacktip Sharks for Florida’s Museum of Natural History.Another article published by the National Shark Research Consortium or NSRC states the bull shark as the most dangerous shark in the world. Due to its ability to survive in freshwater habitats, it puts them in close proximity to humans. They prefer to live in coastal waters less than 100 feet deep. Commonly entering bays, harbors and estuaries, they survive in tropical to subtropical waters and even some freshwater lakes! Although it poses a threat to those who visit these waters, sharks are only one of the many risks associated with these activities.

     Unfortunately, they are the most misconstrued animals of the wild. Only time will tell how comfortable humans will or will not become to this creature.

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Surfers gravitate toward the beach, ignoring risks.

    According to the Underwater Times article, “Sharks, Surfers and New Smyrna: A Biting Tale at the ‘Shark Bite Capital of the World’”, surfers were named as the most attacked individuals. Experts say sharks are attracted to these people specifically because there are a lot of them and wave riders say the best waves can be located at New Smyrna.

     The source of the information can be found at the following Web site: http://www.underwatertimes.com/news.php?article_id=10863094725.

     After reading this article, I thought of the surfer who got caught in a shark attack and managed to continue to surf. The victim’s name is Bethany Hamilton. As an article published by the 700 club, Hamilton is referred to as a “shark attack victim still making waves.” She was a victim of a 15-foot tiger shark, pursuing her and later attacking, leaving her one limb short. The attack only lasted a few seconds as Hamilton reassured the reporter, “It’s funny, you would think having your arm bitten off would really hurt. But there was no pain at the time.” After her attack, she told her dad of her future aspirations. She wanted to be the best surf photographer in the world. Hamilton realized her true dream and endured despite her close encounter with the shark.

    The extended story can be seen by accessing the following link:   http://www.cbn.com/700club/guests/bios/bethany_hamilton_101204.aspx.

     I would take it to the extreme, trying to avoid the water at all cost and pretend as though it was never a place of my fondest memories. Fortunately, Hamilton is the exact opposite. She quickly learned the ocean was not a place to be fearful of.           

     Instead, the creatures of the deep continue to instill a fear in me that I cannot rid. The carefree attitude will always amaze me as people view these animals in a more positive light.

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Media-portrayed dangerous creatures of the deep

     I mentioned the media briefly in the last blog. Let me clarify. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic. The media brings news on a daily basis and many individuals take advantage of this in any form, on the internet, AM radio, newspapers, magazines etc.            

     Burgess talked of a “media day” he had at his Florida Museum of Natural History office. He explained the importance of clarifying and getting on the same page with local media, in hopes it will spread to other national contacts.                                                                                                                   

     Members of the media said shark attacks will always make top story, simply because people are interested in sharks themselves. “Sharks sell and it is no surprise,” Burgess said. How did we become so fascinated in sharks? You may wonder, but fortunately I found a very interesting blog that will somewhat entertain you (assuming you’re part of the majority of fearful ocean swimmers).

     Entitled “Fascinated by Whale Sharks (+Fish, +Corrals…)” the blogger describes his experience with whale sharks being “able to understand and appreciate them even more.” I wish I saw this side of them, but unfortunately I only see the negative side the media often portrays of them. I find myself scarred for life. Only for a few years when I was younger did I get into the water neck-deep. Even then, the idea of being attacked by one of these “gentle creatures” as the blogger reports scared me.

     A further explanation can be found at the following Web site: http://utilawhalesharks.blogspot.com/.

     Every time a piece of seaweed would wrap around my leg, I would be instantly afraid that the next thing coming was a shark, with its mouth open and waiting patiently for my most vulnerable moment. I can only hope that one day I will see the beauty of these creatures. Until then, I find myself baking in the sun, listening to music and hearing the waves crash onto the beach.

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Siesta Beach, Fla — The crystal-clear beach remains empty as spring breakers enjoy the experience without jumping in the water.

Siesta Beach, Fla — The crystal-clear beach remains empty as spring breakers enjoy the experience without jumping in the water.


(Mostly) Disappointing interviews on EHS story

          My name is Cristina Garcia. I am a junior public relations major at the University of Florida. This blog is a part of my environmental/health/science article I wrote prior to spring break. I felt the need to write on this topic because I know most students, including myself, are mainly concerned with sharks when they go to the beach. Every time you go into the water, you wonder if you will come out with a noticeable missing limb. Common misconceptions of sharks are often born out of rumors friends have told us, experiences people have had or the movie “Jaws”.

           The scariest quote came when actor Richard Dreyfuss, aka Matt Hooper the Shark expert said, “They caught A shark, not THE shark. Big difference.” Other popular quotes from the movie, which relates to this story, can be found at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073195/quotes

            As spring break was in session, no shark attacks were publicized. When I interviewed UF shark expert, George Burgess who was more than willing to answer my questions.

            While putting together my EHS story, I contacted the STA travel office at UF’s Reitz Union and was somewhat disappointed with the phone interview I conducted. The manager was not eager to talk to a student or anyone else for that matter. He seemed annoyed and I only asked three out of my ten questions!           

             Another organization, Spring Break Travel, or SBT, was not friendly as well. Unfortunately, I did not get to talk to any employee. I only managed my way to one associate who took my name and number and said she “didn’t have time for two questions.”

            Luckily, Burgess even explain the root of people’s fear of sharks: the media. One day, I will join this often disgusted team of professionals. Until then, I will enjoy my time (with 2 arms and legs) before I am a senior.

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