Shark social media clips causes concerns

(By Chester Moore, Jr. / The Orange Leader) —-

A video and a separate photo of a large shark in the surf on the Bolívar Peninsula has caused quite a bit of stir on social media.
I have fielded numerous questions and comments via social media, email and even in person about these clips.
The video shows what looks like about a five foot long bull shark cruising in about 18 inches of water. The photo is a little less detailed but is probably a bull shark as well.
It is perfectly normal for sharks, including one of this size to be on our local beaches. It is also normal for bull sharks to be present.
I daresay that from spring through early fall every day swimmers, wade fishermen and anyone else who ventures into the water is within a short distance of a shark of some kind. It is their domain and they are super abundant in local waters.
Why were the ones in the video clips so shallow?
On high tides sharks routinely move close to feed and are simply following in prey like mullet and menhaden. The fact that virtually everyone now has a camera via their phone just makes recording these incidents far more common.
Two years ago I filmed in the surf near High Island with a five foot long bull shark caught right in a popular swim area. I have personally seen sharks bigger than that cruising between the first and second sandbars.
Tiger shark numbers are way down due to the horrific practice of “finning” where longline vessels catch them, cut their fins off (for sharkfin soup) and throw the rest away.
As recently as 20 years ago, there were tigers caught from Sabine Pass to Galveston every summer and an acquaintance of mine who wishes to remain nameless had a 12 plus footer on his line at the pier that used to be attacked to the now defunct Flagship Hotel in Galveston.
He was not able to get the monster fish up but everyone there got a good look at it as it was worn out sort of floating in the surf.
Five years ago, we ran a photo of a reader with a nine foot lemon shark caught from the beach at High Island.
The point is there are sharks at our beaches and some of them get big.
Sharks are generally not out to get us but there are attacks so a few safety tips are warranted. These are from the Florida Museum of Natural History.
• Always stay in groups since sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual.
• Do not wander too far from shore because this isolates an individual and additionally places one far away from assistance.
• Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours when sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage.
• Do not enter the water if bleeding from an open wound, and enter with caution if menstruating as a shark’s olfactory ability is acute.
• Wearing shiny jewelry is discouraged because the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales.
• Avoid waters with known effluents or sewage and those being used by sport or commercial fisherman, especially if there are signs of bait fishes or feeding activity. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such action.
• Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks — both often eat the same food items.
• Use extra caution when waters are murky and avoid uneven tanning and bright colored clothing — sharks see contrast particularly well.
• Refrain from excess splashing and do not allow pets in the water because of their erratic movements.
• Exercise caution when occupying the area between sandbars or near steep dropoffs — these are favorite hangouts for sharks.
You do not have to be freaked out when you go to the beach but it does pay to exercise a little caution.
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at chester@kingdomzoo.com You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” 6-7 p.m. Fridays on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com.)

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