In the wake of several shark attacks on people at North Carolina beaches, parents are questioning whether or not to let their kids play in the water. My family was at the exact Oak Island beach where, just two weeks before, two attacks took place in 2015. The water was perfect and warm, and my three kids played for hours and were safe. However, shark attacks do happen and we have to be aware.

Despite the current alarm, researchers are still saying that these incidences are highly unusual. In 2014, there were only 52 attacks in the United States, and only one or two resulted in serious injury. With these particular attacks, there is speculation that they were the result of the same shark, as the bites occurred shortly after one another. So, why did this happen? And should we let our kids swim in the waters?

Sharks have very strong senses, but sight is not one of them. This shark was looking for food, and these poor kids were mistaken as such. Sharks don’t generally come close to the shore, but it must be noted that the first attack occurred in waist-deep water next to a highly populated fishing pier. Reports say that many times, fishermen throw chum into the water to attract fish, which also may attract hungry sharks. There are no laws currently in place to prevent fishermen from doing this.

The two attacks occurred 90 minutes apart and within two miles of each other on the same beach strip. At Oak Island, there is not a mandatory beach evacuation when an incident like this occurs. If there was, the second child may not have been bitten. The Oak Island strip is a nine-mile strand of un-lifeguarded beach. These are all things to consider when choosing a beach for your family if you are concerned about shark attacks. Beaches with lifeguards provided the added protection of having someone high off the ground scanning the water. Also, having a notification system in place to evacuate swimmers if sharks are seen close by or in the unfortunate event that attack does occur. These are all things my family will consider when choosing a beach in the future.

We will continue to enjoy the beach as a family. Like researchers say, the odds of getting attacked by a shark on your next beach trip is unlikely. You are more likely to get melanoma from that same beach trip, and that does not stop anyone from vacationing seaside. There will always be sharks in our waters. Every summer there can be around 30,000 sharks in the waters off the coast of NC, but that is normal.

Here are a few ways you can minimize your risk and stay safe on the beach.

  • Don’t swim alone
  • Swim in lifeguarded waters
  • Stay away from fishing piers
  • Try not to swim at dusk or dawn, when sharks are most active
  • If you see a shark, swim calmly, but quickly to the shore
  • Don’t wear shiny jewelry, which sharks are attracted to

For other ways to stay safe on your next beach trip, see my blog titled Beach Safety Tips you may not think of.

Will you be spending time at the beach this summer? Will you take any extra precautions?