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Experts say shark-biting incidents don't signal a trend

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 01:25 AM

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The bite taken out of a fisherman's leg by a shark over the weekend is simply a case of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time and doesn't signal a trend, a shark expert said Monday.

Javier Perez, a tourist vacationing on Anna Maria Island, was fishing in waist-deep water Sunday afternoon near Bean Point. He had finished for the day shortly after 1 p.m. and dumped his bait into the water, where he was accompanied by three other adults and three children.

That's when a shark bit Perez on the back of his left thigh, authorities said. He and the others flagged down a passing boater, who took him to the Rod and Reel pier. From there, he was taken to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, where he was treated.

Manatee County sheriff's deputies said Perez's wound consisted mainly of a torn flap of skin along with some superficial scratches on the leg.

He was discharged later Sunday, said medical center spokeswoman Stephanie Petta.

It was the second shark bite in the area in eight days. Last week, a 21-year-old Long Boat Key spear fisherman was bitten by a bull shark.

Charles Wickersham was with friends in the Gulf of Mexico on Sept. 24 when a bull shark bit him in the left thigh. He required surgery at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, authorities said.

That was a more serious bite, said Bob Hueter, director of the center for shark research at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. He said two bites within eight days in the same general vicinity "means nothing."

"It just means there are sharks living off that beach," he said, and that's not surprising or unusual.

The type of shark that bit Perez was unknown, Hueter said, but it likely was a small one, probably a blacktip or blacknose shark.

He said that in both cases, sharks were responding to the presence of fish odor in the water — Perez's bait fish and the catch of the spear fisherman.

Typically, clusters of shark bites happen around the Fourth of July, when more people are in the water of West Central Florida, he said. This year, there have been fewer bites than in the past.

"This has been a very quiet year along this coast," he said.


kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760

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