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    Sharks bite 7 in Daytona Beach area

    Beachgoers have been warned out of the water at times this week. No bites were life-threatening.

    By Times staff and wire reports

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2001

    At least seven people have been bitten by sharks this week in the Daytona Beach area, but no shark bites have been reported along Florida's Gulf Coast so far this year.

    The recent spate of shark bites occurred because sharks were hunting for fish along their northward migratory route, experts say.

    Thousands of beachgoers enjoying spring vacations were told to stay out of the water several times this week after sharks were seen and bites -- none life-threatening -- were reported.

    "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. In most cases they realize very quickly that it's not a mullet and go."

    A 16-year-old and a 12-year-old were bitten on the ankles while surfing separately Friday in New Smyrna Beach, said Capt. Rob Horster of the Volusia County Beach Patrol. Both were treated at a nearby hospital.

    Shark bites are common in New Smyrna Beach because the nearby Ponce de Leon Inlet is a site for fish spawning and schooling, Horster said. Three other surfers and a wave-boarder were hit by sharks there Wednesday and Thursday.

    Farther south at Waveland Beach, a man received a deep bite to his right ankle and lower leg Thursday.

    The rash of attacks occurred as sharks swam northward along the Florida coast.

    "Sharks are like Yankee tourists. They come South for the winter and North for the summer," Burgess said.

    The sharks responsible for the nips are generally small, between 4 and 5 feet, said Dr. Bob Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

    Most of these incidents occur off crowded beaches around July 4, but the week before Easter ushers in the shark attack season because of the large crowds and warm water, Hueter said.

    Shark bites are far less common on Florida's Gulf Coast. They generally happen later in the summer.

    "Maybe one or two per year is about all we see on the Gulf Coast," Burgess said. "Later on in the season as the waters warm up, there'll be more sharks closer to shore and more humans in the water."

    Last Aug. 30, St. Pete Beach resident Thadeus Kubinski was killed by a bull shark while swimming near a dock behind his home. Kubinski was thought to be the second victim of a fatal shark attack in Pinellas County in the past 100 years.

    "It was a sad situation," Burgess said. "It was an aberration, one of those once-every-three-four-decades kind of events."

    Florida had 34 unprovoked shark attacks last year out of 79 reported around the world, according to the International Shark Attack File.

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