Earlier this month a swimmer was attacked by a shark at Haulover Beach in Miami-Dade County. That person suffered no life-threatening injuries, but the attack was shocking because it was so rare. In the last 135 years, there have only been 15 total attacks in Miami-Dade.
Stephen Kajiura is a professor of biological sciences at Florida Atlantic University. We discussed why you’re safer from shark attacks at Miami Dade beaches compared to beaches further north in Brevard and Volusia counties, where there are a lot more attacks.
KAJIURA: One of the interesting points about South Florida is that we have beautiful, warm, clear water, and that enables the sharks to determine that you are not a prey item. You’re a big thing. You’re not a little fish that they would typically feed on. You contrast that to the waters further north, like New Smyrna or Daytona, where they have more shark attacks than anywhere else in Florida. That water is rather murky and as a result the sharks simply don’t have the visual acuity to determine if that’s a little fish or maybe just a shiny palm of your hand or sole of your foot. And as a result that’s why you get more bites up there. But down here, where they can actually see what you are, we’re pretty much left alone.
WLRN: So the clearer the water – the safer we are? Is sight the main sense sharks are using?
Sharks certainly rely on a whole suite of sensors to bring them closer to their prey. They can smell blood from a larger distance away and then as they get closer they rely on other senses. They can hear, they can feel the movements, they can see, and when they get very close they can use their electro receptors. But by the time they’re close enough to bite you they can clearly see what you are. And…