N.C. town unveils proposal for shark fishing ban after 2 attacks on teens
OAK ISLAND, N.C. — The shark attack on a girl about 100 yards from a pier has prompted this town to consider at least a temporary ban on shark fishing, a move undertaken by several cities along the East Coast.
Fishing piers can be a magnet for sharks even when people aren’t looking to land them because live bait is in the water and the pilings from the structure itself offer refuge for fish. There are fish guts and blood from caught and cleaned fish that are sometimes tossed back into the water.
“That’s going to attract fish, and that’s going to certainly attract sharks,” North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Director Louis Daniel said. “If they get into the surf zone where the water is a little muddy and cloudy and there’s dead fish parts floating around and they’re gobbling it up,” the sharks can get confused and bite a person.
Fishermen say they don’t think they should be blamed or punished for the rare shark attacks, but officials in Oak Island want a shark fishing ban to limit the food supply for sharks close to shore — at least through the popular Independence Day holiday weekend, town Manager Tim Holloman said. It’s not clear how a ban could be enforced, but it could involve limiting the use of certain types of hooks, rigs and bait used for shark fishing.
Experts say swimming farther away from piers is a good idea, regardless of whether a shark fishing ban is in place. At Oak Island, two young people lost limbs in separate, life-threatening shark attacks within 90 minutes of each other on Sunday. One happened in the shadow of a fishing pier. The other was 2 miles away.
Both had been swimming about 20 yards offshore, in waist-deep water.
Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach are among popular destinations that have outlawed shark fishing from piers to try to better protect swimmers. Towns in Florida have considered bans.
In North Carolina, it’s legal to attract sharks by placing fish parts — also called chum — into a mesh laundry bag and hanging it off the side of a boat or pier, allowing the scent to lure sharks.
But even without chum, virtually any structure in the water offers a place for fish to congregate, and that gives sharks a destination for hunting, said John Zardus, an associate professor of marine biology at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C.
“With their sensory system, they are able to tell there is structure and they know from experience that food is in that area,” he said.
On Sunday, Kiersten Yow, 12, of Asheboro was swimming about 100 yards from Oak Island’s Ocean Crest Pier when a shark attacked.
She lost her left arm below the elbow and suffered leg injuries. Her parents said in a statement Tuesday she was in stable condition.
Nearly 90 minutes after that attack, a shark bit off the left arm above the elbow of 16-year-old Hunter Treschl of Colorado Springs.
He was in good condition Wednesday at a Wilmington hospital, spokeswoman Carolyn Fisher said.
Officials do not know whether they were attacked by the same shark.