(NewsNation) — Contrary to what researchers originally thought, sharks actually spend a considerable amount of time in urban areas, according to a new study.
Marine ecologist Neil Hammerschlag, a professor at the University of Miami who led the study, said large land predators tend to avoid big cities, only coming out where and when there are fewer humans. Those who worked on the study expected sharks in the ocean to do the same.
But they didn’t find anything to suggest that sharks are avoiding the sights, sounds and general bustle of the city. Instead, they found, sharks are “urban adapters,” meaning they do go around cities, though still largely relying on natural areas.
A news release from the University of Miami said the study speculates sharks could be attracted to shore because of land-based activities such as the discarding of fish carcasses.
This shouldn’t be a cause for alarm for beachgoers, though, Hammerschlag said on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.”
Although sharks may go to urban areas, they still tend to avoid people. The United States only saw 47 unprovoked shark bite incidents in 2021, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File. Of these, one was fatal. Worldwide, there were a total of 137 alleged shark-human interactions, but just 11 fatalities.
“The fact that there are so few bites and shark bites are so rare, just points to the fact that humans are not on the menu,” Hammerschlag said. “Sharks really don’t represent a real danger to humans. And I think that the take-home message is to just be aware of your surroundings, and just be conscious and try to be good neighbors with the sharks.”
One place in Florida has a particularly high number of shark sightings: Volusia County. According to researchers, 36% of all shark bites nationwide have happened there, and at Volusia County beaches, people are 10 times more likely to be bitten by a shark than anywhere else in the U.S.
Recently, Pacific Grove, California, saw its first shark attack since 1952. A man was rushed to the hospital Wednesday with shark bites on his stomach, arm and leg. He’s expected to survive, thanks to a couple celebrating their anniversary who heard trouble on the water.
Nurse Amy Johns and her husband, Paul Bandy, an off-duty police officer, both saw the man struggling after being attacked. Surveillance video shows Bandy swimming out and grabbing hold of the bloodied man. Once on shore, Johns applied a tourniquet and helped until emergency services arrived.