Fins Shut Down Local Beaches Over the Weekend
Fins Shut Down Local Beaches Over the Weekend…But Is Safe To Go Back In the Water?
By: Kelly Woodard
A gathering of sharks just off the coast brought a bit of Hollywood legend to the beaches near the Perdido Pass last weekend. On Saturday afternoon, double red flags, warnings to would-be swimmers to stay out of the Gulf of Mexico, were raised over the half-mile stretch of beach where the number of sharks continued to grow.
A local news helicopter first spotted the group of predators in shallow waters popular with swimmers after a routine fly-by on Saturday. As many as 18 sharks were photographed schooling dangerously close to unsuspecting swimmers, and authorities were force to take action.
On Sunday, even more sharks had been drawn to the beach. Nearly 50 sharks were spotted in the same area, and safety officials were enforcing the “no entry” rule to swimmers, boaters, and jet skiers. Orange Beach safety director Melvin Shepard said, “While sharks are always here along our shores, we felt that the sheer number of them in this situation was dangerous.”
Shepard said that while this congregation of sharks may have been extreme, it isn’t uncommon for these predators to cruise our beaches. “They come close to shore in search of food. They have a tendency to be brought in closer by fishermen returning to port to clean their catch. The heads, tails, guts, bones are thrown into the water making it literally a chum bucket. If the sharks see a free meal, they're going to come get it.”
According to Orange Beach safety officials, the sharks began to move away from the beach Monday. Aerial reports later that evening confirmed substantial dissipation in the sharks' ranks.
It was not until early Tuesday afternoon that Orange Beach was given the all-clear. The ban on entering the water was lifted after officials aerially observed only a few sharks off the jetties at Perdido Pass.
All the excitement has locals wondering…..is this the summer of the shark?
Recently, reports of great white shark sightings in the gulf have been rolling in. Just this week, two fishermen spotted a great white shark four to five miles off the Jupiter Coast in south Florida, raising more questions about the great whites’ possible new behavior.
Grant Gilmore, a senior scientist with Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc., said great white sightings in the gulf used to be rare, but at least three sightings in recent months shows it could be a new trend.
Katherine, a 14 foot 2300 pound great white, was tagged in Cape Cod and has since traveled around the Florida peninsula and into the warm gulf waters. With over 4,600 miles of travel under her belt since being tagged, Katherine is now headed towards Northwest Florida waters and researchers are watching her every move.
You can track Katherine and her whereabouts in real time by visiting www.ocearch.org/#sharktracker.
Media reports have been swirling around what researchers are calling a "mystery sea monster" that devoured a 9-foot-long great white shark. A tracking device that was implanted in the shark was found washed up on the beach, and upon further inspection it was determined that the tracker had experienced “a rapid increase in temperature and a swift 1,900-foot (580-meter) dive beneath the waves”.
Scientist say that the more than 30-degree spike in temperature to the shark entering another animal's digestive system, and the unexpected plunge could be explained by the larger animal's rapid descent. According to researcher’s reports, record breaking great white sharks have recently been spotted in the area where the tracker disappeared and are more than likely the culprits of the smaller shark’s fate.
Whether you fear sharks or not, one thing is for sure--they’re not going anywhere. Gilmore said, “These creatures have been here for millions of years. We have to understand that when we are stepping in the water, we are stepping into their territory. They don’t intentionally do humans harm, but we must learn to respect their space. It’s a chance we all take when we enjoy a day at the beach.”