A child was seriously injured in a shark attack in Florida on Thursday, local authorities said.
The child, a girl according to local reports, had been hunting for scallops near Grassy Island off of Keaton Beach, Taylor County, when she was bitten by a shark in water around 5 feet deep, according to the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office.
A family member then rushed to the girl’s aid, beating the shark until it swam away. The girl, whose age wasn’t publicly released, was then airlifted to hospital in Tallahassee with what the sheriff’s office described as “serious injuries.”
“Swimmers and scallopers are cautioned to be alert, vigilant, and practice shark safety,” read a sheriff’s office press release, shared by Florida news station WEAR-TV.
“Some rules to follow are: never swim alone, do not enter the water near fishermen, avoid areas such as sandbars (where sharks like to congregate), do not swim near large schools of fish, and avoid erratic movements while in the water.”
The type of shark that attacked the girl wasn’t given, though it was described as about nine feet long. Sharks inhabit both the east and west coasts of the United States.
Florida has by far the highest number of unprovoked shark attacks among the U.S. states. Since 1837, the state has reported just under 900 such attacks, according to the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File. The state with the second-highest number is Hawaii, with 182, then California with 132.
Florida also tops global charts in general regarding the number of shark bites, representing 38 percent of unprovoked bites worldwide in 2021, the International Shark Attack File shows. Over the past five years, the state has reported an average of 25 incidents annually.
While the shark species responsible for Thursday’s attack hasn’t yet been determined, the three sharks responsible for the most unprovoked attacks around the world are the great white shark, the tiger shark and the bull shark, with the great white topping the list.
Dozens of species of sharks inhabit the waters of the U.S. East Coast, including the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite multiple shark attacks every year, the short-term trends show that the number of bites appears to be decreasing, according to the International Shark Attack File. The data states that although sharks are a hazard that must be considered by anyone entering the water, lightning strikes still cause more incidents leading to the loss of life per year.