SC officials: be wary of small schools of fish

June 29, 2013 

CHARLESTON (AP) – Officials in South Carolina say it's not the sharks that coastal swimmers need to look out for, but instead what the sharks eat.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports that Mel Bell of the Office and Fisheries Management for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources says most of the sharks along Lowcountry shores are small, coastal sharks. He says most bites result from small sharks mistaking an arm or a leg for food.

“Sharks are always there,” Bell said. “Keep in mind it's the ocean and not a swimming pool. That's where these animals live. Be aware and avoid them as best as you can.”

A boy was bitten off Kiawah Island last Tuesday. EMS received the call at 12:45 p.m.

“In comparison to most shark bites, it was a minor wound,” Charleston County EMS Director Don Lundy said at the time. He was “very stable” on the way to the hospital and “fine otherwise,” Lundy said.

Lifeguards had the wound dressed by the time the first emergency crews arrived, according to the St. Johns Fire Department.

There has not been a fatal shark bite in South Carolina since the 1800s.

Bell advises beachgoers to watch for schools of fish because they're what the small sharks want. He also urges people to stay in shallow water, and to avoid swimming early in the morning or late at night, when sharks are likely to be feeding.

Sharks are also attracted to shiny objects, so avoid wearing jewelry in the water. But the only sure way to avoid a possible encounter is to stay out of the water. And that, Bell said, defeats the purpose of going to the beach.

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