Mar 8, 2013

Sharks in Florida

Sharks in Florida,  Seeing one shark is enough to scare most swimmers out of the water. Seeing thousands of sharks in the water — and many leaping into the air as they hunt for prey — could be enough to keep a swimmer out of the water for life.

That's the scenario greeting beachgoers this week in Palm Beach County, Fla., where as many as 15,000 sharks are swarming in the area's warm shallow waters, the Palm Beach Daily News reports.

"They were practically right on the sand," lifeguard supervisor Craig Pollock told the Palm Beach Daily News. "They were frenzied and chasing bait all the way up to shore." Beaches around the area are now closed to swimmers.

Pollock identified the sharks as blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) and spinner sharks (Carcharhinus brevipinna). Both species are renowned for leaping out of the water and "spinning" in the air as they search for the smaller fish that make up their diet.

"I saw something jump," Allen Ginsberg, a New Jersey visitor, told the Palm Beach Daily News. "It looked like the shape of a shark, but I didn’t believe it at first and thought it was a fish."

Shark swarms

The dense pods of sharks seen off Florida shores are nothing new: These swarms are part of an annual migration that carries the animals south to their winter feeding grounds, Steve Kajiura, a shark researcher with Florida Atlantic University, told

"Our data has shown that the bulk of the migration occurs in January and February," Kajiura said, "but it may be a little behind this year due to the warmer weather and water temperatures."

During the winter months, when shark migrations are at their peak, there may be as many as 1,000 sharks in a 0.4 square-mile area (1 square kilometer). According to Kajiura, someone swimming during the shark migration is, on average, just 60 feet (18 meters) from a shark.