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from The Miami Herald

    Posted at 3:14 p.m. EDT Friday, April 13, 2001

At least seven shark bites along Florida's east coast this week

MIAMI -- (AP) -- At least seven people were attacked by sharks along Florida's east coast this week as sharks hunted for fish along their northward migratory route.

Thousands of beachgoers enjoying spring vacations were told to stay out of the water several times after sharks were sighted and bites -- none life-threatening -- were reported.

A 16-year-old from Charleston, S.C., and a 12-year-old were bitten on the ankles while surfing separately before noon Friday in New Smyrna Beach, said Capt. Rob Horster of the Volusia County Beach Patrol. Both boys were taken to Bert Fish Medical Center for treatment and possible stitches, he said. Their names were not made public.

``These are not the kinds of attacks that were made famous in Jaws,'' said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville.

``Sharks sometimes misinterpret the splashing of humans in the water as being normal prey items,'' Burgess said. ``In most cases they realize very quickly that it's not a mullet and go.''

Shark bites are common in New Smyrna Beach because the nearby Ponce de Leon Inlet is a site for fish spawning and schooling, Horster said. Three other surfers and a wave-boarder were hit by sharks there Wednesday and Thursday.

Farther south at Waveland Beach, a man received a deep bite to his right ankle and lower leg Thursday.

Most injuries are not severe, but 22-year-old Richard Lloyd's gash was deep enough to partly sever a tendon. The Orange City surfer, one of the people attacked Thursday off New Smyrna Beach, said doctors would need to operate to repair the damage.

The rash of attacks occurred as sharks swam northward along the Florida coast.

``Sharks are like Yankee tourists. They come south for the winter and north for the summer,'' Burgess said.

Bites often happen in conditions of breaking surf, undertow, tidal currents and reduced visibility, Burgess said. That's when they are most likely to mistake the dangling feet and hands of surfer for a fish.

The sharks responsible for the nips are generally small, between four and five feet, said Dr. Bob Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

Most incidents occur off crowded beaches around July 4, but the week before Easter ushers in the shark attack season because of the large crowds and warm water, Hueter said.

There were 34 unprovoked shark attacks in Florida last year out of 79 reported around the world, according to the International Shark Attack File.

Volusia County surfers and beach authorities were taking the bites in stride.

Every time a shark was sited or a bite reported, swimmers within a couple hundred yards were asked to leave the water for about 20 to 30 minutes, Horster said. The beach patrol doesn't post signs, he said.

``That's their turf. You're going into their home,'' Horster said.

Lloyd said the injury wouldn't keep him out of the water.

``Maybe I will take up shark fishing,'' he told the News-Journal of Daytona Beach.

Copyright 2001 Miami Herald

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