Hammerhead sharks spotted along Tampa Bay coast: Mote Marine scientist has facts, safety tips

Local News

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – In recent days, multiple videos of hammerhead sharks in waters around the Tampa Bay area have been posted to Facebook.

It’s causing concern for some headed to our beaches in scorching, near-summer weather.  

On Monday, a hammerhead was caught on camera circling a family’s boat off Anna Maria Island.

Tuesday, a group of boaters with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office spotted one of the sharks near Anclote Island.

While we don’t see this species of shark here too often in the Tampa Bay area, Mote Marine Laboratory shark scientist Dr. Robert Hueter says… ‘tis the season.

“This is hammerhead season here on the western coast of south Florida. Hammerheads show up here around March and we have them until about July. They’re in our coastal waters right now,” said Dr. Hueter.

This species of shark is in our area now, feeding on fish like tarpon and stingrays. Female hammerhead sharks are also in our waters to give birth.

Dr. Hueter says there is little reason to be worried. Hammerhead shark bites are not common in Florida.

Florida is the part of the world with the most recorded unprovoked shark bites every year, but very few happen here in the Tampa Bay area.

“Shark bites in the Tampa Bay region are relatively rare, very spread out in time. I think the last fatal, obviously serious, attack we had of a shark on a person here in the Tampa Bay area I believe was in 2000, so almost 20 years ago,” said Dr. Hueter.

“We just don’t have as many incidents as we do on the east coast of Florida. That’s not to say we don’t have a lot of sharks, because we do…. Incidents here are relatively rare, fortunately for us.”

He also said you are more likely to be stung by a stingray on the beach than bitten by a shark.

Dr. Hueter has tips for those enjoying the water this summer to keep both humans and sharks safe.

  • Exit the water if you see schools of tarpon.
  • Do not swim at night when sharks can’t distinguish you from food. Sharks are often more common at night, as well.
  • Do no swim in the middle of where someone is fishing.
  • Do not wear shiny jewelry in the water. Anything shiny reflects the sun and can simulate scales of a fish.
  • Brightly colored bathing suits are also a “no.” Sharks can see them at a distance.

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