Governor on shark bites: Don't swim near fishing areas

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Governor Pat McCrory says state officials are looking at what can be done after the seventh shark attack along the North Carolina coast this year.

McCrory says safety officials are still trying to find patterns in the series of shark attacks on the state's coast in order to keep the key tourism region safe for visitors.


"I have talked to several state legislators where the initial bites occurred we are talking about potential local restrictions," said McCrory. "If there is needs to be state involvement, we will do everything we can to support local authorities."

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McCrory said Thursday he doubts there's a single safety response to the string of shark attacks in the past three weeks that has pushed this summer past the previous record.

McCrory says local governments could consider restrictions on luring sharks to fishing hooks around areas where people are swimming, especially during the summer tourist season.

"Use your common sense and listen to what lifeguards and other local authorities are saying and recognize there are certain areas where we are having these bites so just use your common sense especially if you are in and around a fishing area," said McCrory.

RAW VIDEO: Governor McCrory on shark attacks


Area media outlets report that a 12-year-old boy was bitten while swimming off the Isle of Palms northeast of Charleston, South Carolina on Tuesday.

The youngster was swimming with a cousin about 15 feet out in the surf about 6 p.m. when he was bitten. The youth required eight stitches to close the wound.

There have been at least two shark attacks off the South Carolina coast this year.

Seven people have been attacked by sharks along the North Carolina coast in the past three weeks. The most recent was Wednesday when a 68-year-old man was injured off Ocracoke Island.

A spokeswoman at the Greenville, North Carolina, hospital where he was taken said Andrew Costello was in good condition.

He suffered wounds to his ribcage, lower leg, hip and both hands as he tried to fight off the animal, said Justin Gibbs, the director of emergency services in Hyde County. The attack happened around noon on a beach on Ocracoke Island, right in front of a lifeguard tower, he said.

"He was pulled under by the shark," said Gibbs, who said witnesses reported the animal was about 7 feet long.

He was swimming in waist-deep water with his adult son about 30 feet offshore, the National Park Service said in a news release. There were no other swimmers injured.

Costello was the former editor-in-chief of the Boston Herald, the newspaper reported early Thursday. Costello released the following statement on Thursday afternoon:

I'm recovering after a frightening and painful shark attack that occurred on July 1. I feel very fortunate to have survived thanks to the incredible assistance I received from medical personnel on the beach, both those on duty and vacation. I am receiving the best care at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, NC where I was airlifted yesterday. I want to thank everyone from the Ocracoke National Park Service lifeguards to the EMTs and hospital medical staff for their professionalism and excellent care. At this time, I'm focused on my recovery and will not be doing media interviews. Thank you for your concern and respecting my privacy during this time.

There have been 7 shark attacks this year along the North Carolina coast.


Costello is the seventh person attacked along the North Carolina coast in three weeks, the most in one year in the 80 years for which the Florida Museum of Natural History's International Shark Attack File keeps records. The highest previous total was five attacks in 2010. Three of the 52 confirmed shark attacks between 1935 and 2014 were deadly, according to the database.

Most of this year's attacks happened in shallow water. The injuries ranged widely: An 8-year-old boy had only minor wounds to his heel and ankle, while at least two others have required amputation. Another person attacked Saturday had initially been considered at critical risk of dying.

Shark experts say the recent spate of attacks along on the coast of the Carolinas is due to so many more people getting in the water. Americans made 2.2 billion visits to beaches in 2010, up from 2 billion in 2001, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimate.

The record-breaking numbers of shark bites might be related to an unseasonably hot June that rapidly raised ocean temperatures off North Carolina and prompted fish to migrate north earlier than usual, said Chuck Bangley, a shark researcher at East Carolina University.

"So when you have more marine life in general in the water and then more people heading to the beach than usual, then you've got a potential recipe for accidents to happen," Bangley said.

Roger Rulifson, a distinguished professor of biology and senior scientist at East Carolina University, said recently that there have been reports of small bait fish coming closer to shore this summer, which attracts sharks. There have also been reports of larger numbers of sea turtles along the coast, which sharks also like to eat, he said.

Lynette Holman, 44, of Boone, said she was on the beach with her husband and 10-year-old son when she noticed a commotion about 50 yards down the beach. She saw a man walking through knee-deep water and then people rushing to help him out of the surf. There was no panic or screaming, and the nearest lifeguard on duty told her she thought the man might have been having heart trouble. Then Holman saw a gash above his knee.

"The skin was pulled away. It was an open-wound gash," said Holman, a journalism professor at Appalachian State University.

Laura Irish Hefty of New Hope, Pennsylvania, said she was about 100 yards away when she saw a crowd gathering. She said her husband, David, saw blood on both of the man's legs.

Costello was treated on the beach for about 20 minutes until he was stabilized and carried off the sand and beyond the dunes to a road, Hefty said. A helicopter flew him to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, about 85 miles away.

Swimmers were back in the water within a couple of hours, Hefty said.

"Nobody seems to be that scared," she said.
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