Update: Chumming not an issue in Marco shark bite incident

Steve Stefanides
Emergency personnel answering a call about a possible shark bite attend to the man before taking him to a local hospital.

Using blood and fish parts to attract sharks and other predators has been ruled out of this past weekend's shark bite incident.

On Sunday afternoon, the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department responded to a call from Marco Island Residents' Beach about a possible shark bite.

When personnel arrived, they found a 63-year-old man with a serious laceration on his leg.

Fire-rescue paramedics treated the man at the scene and transported him to Physicians Regional Medical Center in Naples. He was released after treatment at the facility.

According to Ron Hagerman of Capt. Ron's Awesome Everglades Adventures, this type of incident is rare.

"This was probably a case of mistaken identity," said Hagerman. "This time of year the water gets a little murky and a shark is likely to mistake the movement in the water as that of a snook or other fish. They really don't want anything to do with humans."

Emergency crews said Carsten Jessen, 63, had a serious laceration on his leg, which was later confirmed as a shark bite by medical personnel.

2 feet of water

Jessen was visiting Marco Island with his family from Germany.

Jessen had been standing in about 2 feet of water close to the shoreline when he said he thought he was watching a small dolphin swimming around him and his family. Shortly after that, he said he felt a searing pain and moved to the shoreline where his injury was evident.

"It has been several years since we've had this type of incident on any of the beach area on Marco and I do believe it to be a very isolated incident," said Dick Adams, president of the Marco Island Civic Association.

MICA manages the main beach access point for Marco Island residents who belong to the Residents' Beach Association.

Humans are 30 times more likely to be struck by lightning than bitten by a shark, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. In fact, sharks are much more in danger from humans than the reverse, the FWC said. Some statistics show that the shark population is at 25-30 percent of their numbers of only 25 years ago.

Regardless of that, both the Marco Island police and fire/rescue personnel caution swimmers and beachgoers be aware of their surroundings.

Shark fishing not allowed

Sgt. Nick Ojanovac, who supervises both the patrol and investigative divisions of the Marco police department, stressed that visitors and residents adhere to the city ordinance prohibiting fishing for sharks from the beach, although that didn't appear to be a contributing factor in this incident.

Ordinance 54-36 Section G specifically prohibits fishing from the beach for sharks, including up to 1,000 feet from the shoreline. It also prohibits the utilization of chumming or blood baiting to attract any number of species of fish, including sharks, either from the shoreline or 1,000 feet from the shore.

That tactic caused some catastrophic injuries to both surf fishermen and innocent swimmers in the northern Florida Panhandle a few years ago, leading to legislation to halt that process in that popular area by local jurisdictions.

"We've advised our beach patrol and the marine patrol officers to pay special attention to any of this type of activity and to take swift enforcement action, should it be observed," said Ojanovac.

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