Education

Living With Alligators

aligators 1

<alligators 2

 

Sharing the Water with Sharks: Awareness and Education are Key

Experts offer tips on sharing state waters with one of the earth’s oldest predators.
Every year, millions of tourists and residents visit Florida’s beaches and waterways, and these beaches and waterways will more than likely contain sharks. According to experts, while there are no guaranteed ways to avoid shark attacks, understanding shark behavior could help you make better decisions on when and where to swim.
“It’s very important for people who visit Florida waters to be aware of their surroundings, understand the relative risks, and be educated on various shark issues such as behavior, biology and fisheries,” says Brent Winner, scientist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI).
In the over 400 million years that sharks and their ancestors have roamed Florida waters, their role in their environment has changed very little. As the top predator in most marine ecosystems, sharks continue to help maintain balance within each ecosystem they inhabit.
Florida’s diverse shark population includes species that range in size from only a few feet to more than 40 feet in total length. Most of these species feed on fishes or marine invertebrates. Some even feed on plankton, but none see humans as a food source. Experts believe that most shark attacks are cases of mistaken identity, which explains why nearly all shark attacks that occur in Florida waters are of a bite-and-release nature. The percentage of fatal shark attacks has dramatically decreased worldwide: in Florida, shark attacks are fatal only 1% of the time, 10 times less than the current worldwide average.

Bull Shark

Many shark species are common in Florida’s near shore waters and bays. More than 13 species of shark use these areas as nursery grounds for their pups. Scientific data show that many shark species migrate in and out of Florida’s waters each year. These migrations are often linked to temperature and the presence of prey such as mullet, sardines, menhaden, and other species of baitfish. Migrating sharks will either move in an inshore-offshore manner or along latitudinal gradients (e.g., north-south).
In Florida, sharks typically move inshore and north in the spring and summer, and offshore and south in fall and winter months. This pattern explains why shark activity is at its peak in Florida waters during April through October, which coincidentally, is also the time period that humans are more likely to be in the water. Yet shark attacks still remain very rare. Humans are 30 times more likely to be struck by lightning in Florida than to be bitten by a shark. Experts agree that the increase in the number of shark attacks in recent years is more related to an increase in human visitors than to an increase in shark populations or activity.

Tiger Shark

Humans are much more of a danger to sharks than vice versa. On average worldwide, fewer than 10 people die from shark attacks each year; however, the world’s fisheries kill an estimated 100 million sharks annually. The general biology and life history of most shark species make them extremely vulnerable to overfishing, which is why federal and state regulations protect these valuable resources. Some data show that shark populations are at 20%-30% of the level they were just 25 years ago. To ensure our own safety and the continued existence of these fascinating fishes, people need to become more aware of sharks and more educated about sharks and related issues.

 

Black Tip Shark

Reducing the Odds of a Shark Attack

There are precautions you should take to avoid shark attacks.

It is extremely unlikely for a person to be bitten or attacked by a shark in Florida waters, and attacks are rarely life threatening. However, if you are thinking of going swimming on an ocean beach, and if you are concerned about sharks, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce your chances of being bitten:
* Always stay in groups since sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual.
*  Do not wander too far from shore-this isolates an individual and places him or her far away from assistance.
*  Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours when sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage.
* Do not enter the water if bleeding from an open wound or if menstruating-a shark’s ability to smell blood is acute.
* Wearing shiny jewelry is discouraged. When light reflects off shiny jewelry, it resembles the sheen of fish scales.
*  Avoid waters with known discharges or sewage and waters used for any type of fishing-especially if there are signs of bait fish or feeding activity. *Diving seabirds, which frequently feed on bait fish, are good indicators of such activity.
*  While there are myths and anecdotes about dolphins saving humans from shark attacks, sighting dolphins does not indicate the absence of sharks-both often eat the same foods.
*  Use extra caution when waters are murky.
* Remember that sharks see contrast particularly well. Uneven tans and bright colored clothing may draw a shark’s attention.
* Refrain from excess splashing, as this may draw a shark’s attention.
*  Do not allow pets in the water: their erratic movements can cause sharks to mistake them for baitfish.
*  Be careful when occupying the area between sandbars or near steep drop-offs-these are favorite hangouts for sharks.
*  Swim only in areas tended by lifeguards.
* Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present, and get out of the water if sharks are sighted.
* Never harass a shark!

 

Rip Currents

How to Avoid and Survive Rip Currents

Learn how to swim!

  • Never swim alone.
  • Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard protected beach.
  • Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
  • If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
  • If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1 . Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

<rip current

Rip Current Myth

A rip current is a horizontal current. Rip currents do not pull people under the water–-they pull people away from shore. Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion, or lack of swimming skills.

In some regions rip currents are referred to by other, incorrect terms such as rip tides and undertow. We encourage exclusive use of the correct term – rip currents. Use of other terms may confuse people and negatively impact public education efforts.

 

Fireworks

FIREWORKS ARE ILLEGAL!

St. Augustine Beach Ordinance 13-42 (Fireworks: Manufacture, sale and discharge):

Except as hereinafter provided, it shall be unlawful for any person to possess, store, or offer for sale, sell at retail, or use or explode any fireworks as defined by Chapter 791 of the Florida Statutes; provided that the city manager or his designee shall permit the use of fireworks for public or private displays when all of the provisions of the National Fire Protection Association 1123 Code for Fireworks Display, 1995 edition (as amended), approved by the American National Standards Institute, are met, when all conditions imposed by the city manager, which conditions are peculiar to the proposed site and are designed to further the public safety, have been complied with, and after all necessary permits have been issued. Every such use or display shall be handled by a competent operator approved by the city manager or his designee and shall be of such character and so located, discharged or fired so as not to be hazardous to property or endanger any person.

St. Johns County Beach Code 2007-19

Section 3.13. Fireworks and Explosives:

No person shall bring into or have in their possession, or set off or otherwise cause to explode or discharge ro burn within the unincorporated areas of the beach any firecrackers, torpedoes, rockets or other fireworks or explosives of flammable material, or discharge them or throw them onto the beach from land or water thereto unless part of a professional fireworks display approved by the Board of County Commissioners. Section 10.01: Any violation of any provision of this Code shall be by the issuance of a citation.

St. Augustine Beach Ordinance 13-42 (Fireworks: Manufacture, sale and discharge):
Except as hereinafter provided, it shall be unlawful for any person to possess, store, or offer for sale, sell at retail, or use or explode any fireworks as defined by Chapter 791 of the Florida Statutes; provided that the city manager or his designee shall permit the use of fireworks for public or private displays when all of the provisions of the National Fire Protection Association 1123 Code for Fireworks Display, 1995 edition (as amended), approved by the American National Standards Institute, are met, when all conditions imposed by the city manager, which conditions are peculiar to the proposed site and are designed to further the public safety, have been complied with, and after all necessary permits have been issued. Every such use or display shall be handled by a competent operator approved by the city manager or his designee and shall be of such character and so located, discharged or fired so as not to be hazardous to property or endanger any person.
St. Johns County Beach Code 2007-19
Section 3.13. Fireworks and Explosives:
No person shall bring into or have in their possession, or set off or otherwise cause to explode or discharge or burn within the unincorporated areas of the beach any firecrackers, torpedoes, rockets or other fireworks or explosives of flammable material, or discharge them or throw them onto the beach from land or water thereto unless part of a professional fireworks display approved by the Board of County Commissioners. Section 10.01: Any violation of any provision of this Code shall be by the issuance of a citation.
fireworks

 

 

 

Concealed Weapon License

Reciprocity List

Concealed Weapon License

 

 

Comments are closed.