Shark expert: Bites were likely not 'attacks'

Published: Jun. 15, 2015 at 11:42 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 19, 2015 at 11:42 PM EDT
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SOUTHEASTERN, NC (WECT) - Many people are calling Sunday's shark bite incidents in Oak Island attacks. However, shark experts claim that's not exactly the case.

Paul Barrington of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher said the two shark bites incidents that injured a 12-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy are more than likely examples of the shark mistaking the kids for fish.

"People are in their realm. They're swimming around, they're enjoying themselves in the water but they're also creating sound waves similar to aggregation of large food fish that the sharks are normally feeding on," Barrington noted.

He said the fact that the shark bites happened back to back is unusual but not surprising when considering where the incidents happened.

"It's just adjacent to probably one of the most one of the most prolific estuaries within the state of North Carolina, the Cape Fear River," Barrington explained. "The Cape Fear River is home for thousands if not millions of animals that are in the estuaries reproducing. All those animals eventually make it out the mouth of the Cape Fear River and are food items for sharks."

Barrington added since sharks do not typically prey on humans, they do not attack them. The shark expert said although people shouldn't panic over the recent events, they should be cautious.

"People should not be afraid. They should be aware, and understanding they've been in these waters far longer than we've been, and that to try to minimize all those things that could possibly attract and confuse sharks while they're enjoying the beaches in North Carolina," Barrington said.

Barrington said swimmers should try to avoid swimming in the waters at dusk and when there is a lot of bird or fish activity in the water.

He also added, if you see a shark, leave the water calmly. If you end up in a close encounter, he suggests you grab the shark's gills, punch its snout or poke its eye to get away from it.

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