June has proven to be a brutal month for shark attacks the world over. On the East Coast, there have been seven reported shark attacks alone in North and South Carolina. In two of the attacks in North Carolina, which happened just over an hour and a half apart from each other, a young boy and girl both lost arms. Just this morning (July 1) in the Outer Banks, a 68-year-old man was attacked while swimming near Ocracoke Island, and had to be airlifted to the hospital. In 2014, North Carolina saw a total of four attacks in the entire year.
While it's difficult to pinpoint the reason for the sudden rise in attacks, National Geographic has reported the weather and currents could be playing a role. "Attacks are much more likely when the water temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit 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.”
Fred Scharf, who is a professor of fisheries biology at the University if North Carolina Wilmington echoed those sentiments. “There’s just more food in the water for sharks to feed on this time of year in the near-shore ocean,” he told the Tampa Bay news. Other estimates range from global warming to a higher ocean salinity this year due to less rainfall in the area. Additionally, it's been suggested that the East Coast typically sees a rise in attacks in the summer months simply because more people are in the water.”
More than 8,000 miles away, South Africa also bore witness to tragedy as two people were attacked in two days. Both of the victims in South Africa were surfing at the time of the incident and one of the attacks resulted in an amputation of the leg below the knee. The number of attacks in South Africa typically ranges between two and eight per year.
While this latest news is tragic, the statistical odds of being bit by a shark are indeed rare and surfers can mitigate their chance of being bit even further by not surfing at dusk or after a heavy rain near a river mouth.