How to swim safely in the world’s shark bite capital

Author: Dave Wagner Writer: Rachel Murphy
Published: Updated:

It’s peak time for swimmers — and shark bite encounters. WINK News spoke with Bob Hueter, an Ocearch Shark Biologist about how to stay safe in the water.

“It’s really because of the number of people that are in the water. It’s just people overlapping with sharks in the coastal zone and Fourth of July is just a peak, peak time at the beach,” Hueter said.

There were 16 shark bites in Florida in 2022, more than anywhere in the world.

Addison Bethea, 17, lost her leg to a shark while swimming in five feet of water off Keaton Beach.

“I’m still going to get in the ocean when I heal and get better. Still going to do what I love but don’t just let fear overtake your life,” Bethea said.

Hueter has researched the behavior of sharks for nearly five decades.

“This time of year is the time when we’ve got about half a dozen very common shark species in our waters. Everything from black tip sharks to bull sharks to even hammerheads. And it’s also obviously a time of year when people are getting in the water,” Hueter said.

He said there are things you can do to make yourself less attractive to a shark.

“From May to September, don’t go swimming before dawn and get out of the water well before dusk,” Hueter said. “This is the time when sharks become more active. They actually feed more commonly, generally, during these twilight hours of both dawn and dusk. And why is that? Because they have sort of the advantage on their prey.”

Don’t swim in areas where people are fishing or where birds are seen diving for fish.

“Don’t go swimming in the water if you’re bleeding. Menstruating women are often advised not to go swimming at that time. Only because you’re putting out stimuli that the sharks may mistake you for what their natural prey is,” Hueter explained.

Hueter also advised staying away from brightly colored bathing suits or jewelry that a shark might mistake for fish scales.

“Don’t go swimming far out. Stay in close. Stay near people,” Hueter said.

Despite Florida being the shark bite capital of the world, the risk is still incredibly low. Hueter said there are far more dangerous conditions at the beach, including lightning and rip currents.

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