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Shark Expert: Beach Communities Need to Separate Swimmers and Fishers, Post More On-Beach Personnel

Pterantula / Wikimedia Commons
Bull shark

Eight shark attacks off the North Carolina coast this season have prompted Governor Pat McCrory to ask the Department of Public Safety to look for patterns.Some shark experts say dividing the beach into activity zones could be a simple and critical component of good public policy. 


The Department of Public Safety is tracking the large number of shark attacks along the North Carolina coast.  Whether policy changes at the state level are in the works is unclear; a spokesperson from DPS says only that “the State Emergency Response Team stands prepared to respond to potential requests by counties for state resources related to these recent shark incidents.”

But George Burgess, the Director of Florida’s Shark Research Program and the International Shark Attack Fileat the University of Florida, says keeping those who are fishing away from swimmers could go a long way towards safer beaches.

"The communities are going to have to make some fishing zones versus some bathing zones.   And there's going to have to be some sort of a demilitarized zone between the two groups to keep them apart.  And then we can reduce chances of attracted sharks to the fishing facilities wandering into the other areas.  All that said -- that requires on-beach personnel."

Burgess says North Carolina’s popularity as a vacation destination means beach communities should start putting money from tourism back into infrastructure and personnel.  

Brunswick County beach towns do not pay for lifeguards.  In neighboring New Hanover County, all beach municipalities post guards.  Pender County employs a small, roving surf patrol.

To hear more on Shark Sense, listen to the July 8th edition of Coastline online, download the podcast, or listen for the re-broadcast Saturday, July 11th at 1 PM. 

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.