MIAMI – At least seven people have been attacked by sharks along Florida's east coast this week as the predators hunt for fish along their northward migratory route.
Thousands of beachgoers have been warned to stay out of the water after sharks were sighted and bites -- none of them life-threatening -- were reported.
A 16-year-old from Charleston, S.C., and a 12-year-old were bitten on the ankles Friday while surfing separately at New Smyrna Beach, said Capt. Rob Horster of the Volusia County Beach Patrol. Three other surfers and a wave-boarder were bitten by sharks on Wednesday and Thursday in the same area.
"These are not the kinds of attacks that were made famous in 'Jaws,'" said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville.
"Sharks sometimes misinterpret the splashing of humans in the water as being normal prey items," Burgess said. "In most cases, they realize very quickly that it's not a mullet and go."
Shark bites are common at New Smyrna Beach because the nearby Ponce de Leon Inlet is a site for fish spawning and schooling, Horster said.
Farther south at Waveland Beach, a man received a deep bite to his right ankle and lower leg Thursday.
Most injuries were not severe, but 22-year-old Richard Lloyd's gash was deep enough to partly sever a tendon. The Orange City surfer, attacked Thursday off New Smyrna Beach, said doctors would need to operate to repair the damage.
Shark bites typically happen in conditions of breaking surf, undertow, tidal currents and reduced visibility, Burgess said.
The sharks responsible for the nips are generally small, between four and five feet, said Dr. Bob Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. "That's their turf," he said. "You're going into their home."
According to the International Shark Attack File, there were 34 unprovoked shark attacks confirmed in Florida last year. Of the 79 unprovoked shark attacks confirmed worldwide, it lists 10 as fatal.