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Are there sharks in coastal Carolina’s waters?

Kellen Moore

If you’ve seen “Jaws,” this is a question that has undoubtedly plagued you when you go in the ocean. You’re out there having a leisurely dip in the water and suddenly you remember the movie’s foreboding crescendo as the fin appears and starts its rapid approach…

The truth is sharks do live off the North Carolina coast, but attacks are rare. The most common types found close to shore include sandbar, bull, scallop hammerhead and sharpnose sharks, said Matt Babineau, an aquarist technician at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

In 2008, three unprovoked shark attacks occurred in N.C. waters, according to the International Shark Attack File, a compilation of all known shark attacks created in 1958 and administered by the American Elasmobranch Society and the Florida Museum of Natural History.

In July 2007, a 14-year-old boy sustained minor injuries to his right calf while swimming at North Topsail Beach in Onslow County.

For a map of confirmed attacks in North Carolina between 1935 and 2006, click here.

Still worried about being a shark’s next victim? According to the International Shark Attack File’s Web site, the annual risk of death in one’s lifetime is greater for incidents involving excessive cold, sun/heat exposure, lightning, a train crash or fireworks than for shark attacks. Research also shows you’re more likely to be involved in a dog attack or sand hole collapse than a shark attack.

Even though the odds are pretty slim you’ll be attacked by a shark, there are certain things you can do to make it even less likely. Among them are: avoid entering the ocean in darkness or twilight hours, stay out of the water if bleeding and stay in groups while swimming, wading or surfing. Click here for a full list.

National Geographic offers some tips on what to do if you’re attacked and how to help a victim. Click here to learn more.

Judy Royal contributed to this post.

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4 Responses to “ Are there sharks in coastal Carolina’s waters?”

  1. On November 13, 2009 at 12:08 am Elena wrote:

    I had a question about sharks in our waters….just read the article today (Nov. 12th) about the great white shark spotted. The photo looked odd, because the past few days we’ve had rain and I don’t think the water would have looked so blue and glassy in the past few days. When was the photo taken?

  2. On March 21, 2010 at 9:33 am Marcus wrote:

    All you have to do is visit the pier in Wristhville Beach, those kids fishing out there pull shark after shark out of the water.

    Yes it’s the ocean is full of sharks.

    Just like a town is full of people.

  3. On June 30, 2010 at 9:13 pm Steve Sellers wrote:

    As an avid ocean kayaker I’ve seen all sorts of aquatic creatures. Rays of various sizes, huge turtles, dolphins, all sorts of fish and certainly sharks. I frequent Topail Island the year around and have twice seen a shark that could easily have invlicted serious damage to anyone. Once a tiger and once a bull shark both of which were quite large and in fairly shallow water. Probably four to six feet deep. Most people don’t think of the ocean as the wilderness that it is. It’s full of all sorts of animals. Just because your house is there and town is up the street doesn’t make it any less wild.

  4. On May 28, 2011 at 2:16 am Mark Joseph wrote:

    Approximately three years ago, while jogging on the beach in Kure Beach, I watched as two men reeled in a pretty large shark while surf fishing. The fisherman held onto the reel and pole, while his friend grabbed it by the tale and pulled it on to the beach. The fish was about 6 feet long, and one pulled up on its nose to reveal a mouth of about 1 1/4-1 1/2 feet wide. It was a scary sight to see such a large predator caught and brought on to the beach itself. After about 2-3 minutes, they evidently had unhooked and dragged it by the tail back into the surf. It looked to be around 150 pounds……..I’ve also seen a dead turtle wash up on the beach in around 1999 that was the size of a Volkswagon!

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