Some beach-goers have become a bit leary of the ocean after a 17-year-old was injured in a shark attack earlier this month, but area experts are not concerned.
Even the teen, New Bern High School junior Paige Winter, has encouraged people to focus on ocean protection and preservation, writing in a statement she plans to do her part to save the environment because sharks are still "good people" once she recovers from reconstructive surgery on her hand and the amputation of her left leg.
Taylor Maready, a marine life educationalist and owner of Ecological Marine Adventures, said it's best to steer clear of sharks on television, as those generally just create fear. Maready often surfs and spends a great deal of time in the water for work and leisure, during which he's seen plenty of sharks.
"Sharks don't want anything to do with people, any more than people want to do with them," Maready said.
The likelihood of someone being bitten by a shark is very low, Maready said. However, there are ways to stay informed prior to a day at the beach.
Paul Terry, Fort Macon Park Ranger, offered a few vital pieces of advice.
If you see a shark, "Get out of the water, obviously," he said. "Avoid the water during feeding times, early morning, and at dusk or dark. You don't want to be in the water then."
He also advised avoiding wearing any shiny jewelry into the ocean.
"Sharks, like any fish, confuse this with other fish, lure like a bait, and then you become the bait," he said.
Marine Biologist Paula Fernell with Sturgeon City in Jacksonville said breeding and feeding with sharks increases as the water warms up. The most common sharks found in the area are sand tiger sharks, bull sharks and if you are a commercial fisherman and go farther out into the waters, you will find hammerheads and bonnet sharks.
Maready said sharks aren't always visible by a fin gliding through the water. Hammerheads, for example, like to bury themselves in the sand.
One way to tell if a shark could be in the area is to look at the sky.
"If you see birds swooping down to catch fish, that means there are fish there," said Hap Fatzinger, director of the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. "Big fish catch little fish. Spanish Mackerel fish for smaller fish, bigger fish and sharks fish for mackerel, dolphin fish. It's just how the cycle goes."
There are 1,200 species of sharks worldwide and more than half of them are facing threat of extinction, Fatzinger said. In North Carolina, there's a healthy population of sharks due to regulations on fisheries. There are four species, he said, that are specifically restricted: the sand tiger, sandbar, dusky, and hammerheads.
"They have to be safely released unharmed if caught due to large conservation needs," Fatzinger said.
Fatzinger urged citizens to learn about marine life in the waters before visiting.
Maready said sharks have good eyesight, contrary to popular belief, and have an impeccable sense of smell and feel through their magnificent ampullae lorenzini.
"The ampullae lorenzini is a sensory organ found in the nose of the shark that allows them to feel their prey through electromagnetic sensations. So they feel you first," Maready said. "It allows them to feed more frequently and effectively."
Sharks are vital to our oxygen supply, Maready explained. Sharks are apex predators that feed on many kinds of plankton-eating fish. Because of movies like "Jaws" people aren't informed that in a sense, sharks are saving more lives than they are taking by keeping a healthy balance between marine life and human life by eating the fish that eat the organism vitally necessary for our oxygen supply.
"Sharks are vitally important to our ecosystem and ocean life is the most important part of our ecosystem," Fatzinger said.