Friday, July 01, 2005

ENV: Sharks, sharks, sharks . . .

New shark attack at Florida beach
Austrian teen was bitten in ankle; third incident in a week
The Associated Press, Updated: 11:48 p.m. ET July 1, 2005


BOCA GRANDE, Fla. - A shark bit an Austrian tourist on the ankle Friday while he stood in chest-deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, the state's third shark attack in a week.

Armin Trojer, 19, of Baden, Austria, was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Fort Myers, where he was in fair condition, hospital spokeswoman Pat Dolce said. He underwent surgery Friday evening to repair some ligaments, tendons and blood vessels on his right ankle.

"It is a confirmed shark attack," Lee County sheriff's spokeswoman Ileana LiMarzi said. "Someone else in the water saw a shark."

Paramedics also indicated the wound was consistent with a shark bite, she said. The man was bitten near the lighthouse at Gasparilla Island Beach.

Beach remained open"We are out there right now letting people know, notifying people on the beach about what happened," LiMarzi said. The beach was not closed to swimmers as no other sharks were spotted during helicopter flights over the area.

Two other young people have been bitten since Saturday along Florida's Gulf Coast. Friday's incident was about 280 miles from an attack Monday on a 16-year-old Tennessee boy who lost his leg and about 350 miles from the spot where a 14-year-old Louisiana girl was killed Saturday.

Experts believed bull sharks attacked both teens in the Florida Panhandle. The type of shark involved in Friday's attack was not immediately determined.

Florida averaged more than 30 shark attacks a year from 2000 to 2003, but there were only 12 attacks off the state's coast last year, said George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida.

Sharks begin 'attacking' humans again
Steve Pritchett, Marco Island Sun Times

Due to the media's incorrect use of the word "attack," sharks have begun "attacking" humans again off Florida's beaches.

Listen, folks, sharks bite people, they don't attack them. Read Peter Benchley's Shark Trouble, and you'll see the logic of this argument. Even Benchley, the author of Jaws, knows a word distinction like that.

I know that when a human gets bitten and bleeds to death, it's dramatic. But lets not get the Great Shark Media Frenzy of 2001 going again. There was an average or even below average number of shark bites that year, but the American news media went insane with the "attack" stories and made everyone think that swimmers were dying every day, as if going to the beach was equal to vacationing in a war zone.

The shark "attack" stories continued all summer in 2001. Even after the kids were safely packed up in school again in August, the shark stories kept coming. Then, on Sept. 11 of that year, something happened that took the world's attention off the sharks - an event that warranted the use of the word "attack." There was a bigger story in town, so the cameras swung away from Florida's beaches.

Well, they're back at it. I can hear the newsroom preaching now: "Can you catch the irony? Florida depends on tourism, especially on its beaches. But now, that source of income is in jeopardy because of something right off those beaches: The sharks have come back to take a chunk out of the Florida economy."

Listen, pal, it took four hurricanes last year to threaten Florida's tourism, so tell the sharks to get in line while we quietly await the first 'cane of the year.

Stop the insanity. When we get into the water, we enter their food chain - willingly. They're all around us. Sometimes they decide to check us out. There's no sinister plot from Fidel Castro or otherwise to unleash the destructive force of evil sharks on the unsuspecting populace. (I saw Castro and Bin Laden each blamed for the 2001 "shark attacks" on the cover of a supermarket tabloid. And they say truth is stranger than fiction?)

The 14-year-old girl who recently died was 100 yards offshore Boogie Boarding. This last kid, too, was 60 yards offshore wading and fishing. Both of these scenarios have been known to attract sharks, especially being so far out.

True, Jesse Arbogast was in two feet of water in 2001 when the bull shark bit his arm off in the Panhandle, so it doesn't matter how far out or close in you go.

They're out there. It's a risk you take.

We ran a story in the April 28, 2005 editon about Anthony Santiago, a shark fisherman who fishes all day long in season right off Tigertail Beach and catches black tip sharks like some folks drag in trout. He told me that he was fishing one day with 120-pound test line and something snapped it.

He doesn't get in a boat and drag his bait 100 yards out either. He tosses it from shore.

Be careful and smart out there. Know the risk you're taking. You can read plenty of books about sharks, you know, and you can get them from the library.

I recommend these nonfiction books:
Peter Benchley's Shark Trouble
Michael Capullo's Close To Shore (The true story that Jaws was based on.)

When it comes to the subject of sharks, you might try skipping the fiction - and that sometimes includes news reporting. It tends to get bloody sensational.

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