Shark concerns keep double red flags flying, officials say

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) – In the last two days, the City of Orange Beach has seen an unusually large population of sharks along the coast.

Officials speculate they are bull sharks, and they have migrated closer to the eastern Orange Beach shoreline because of fishermen throwing their fish carcasses back in to the water, making for tasty shark treats.

Beach officials closed two public beach accesses in Orange Beach Sunday, and the remained closed through the day on Monday. Officials say the accesses will remain closed until at least 10 a.m. Tuesday because of all of the sharks.

The two accesses closed to swimmers, are Alabama Point just east of the bridge on Perdido Key Parkway, and the parking lot beach access just east of Alabama Point.

Officials said in the morning they will be flying up and down the coast to do another assessment of the shark counts near the shore.

If they feel the shark levels have decreased, they will take down these double red flags, but until then, the double red flags will continue to fly, meaning the beaches are closed to swimmers and you could be fined if you get in the water.

Melvin Shepard, Aquatics Safety Director for Orange Beach Fire Department, told FOX10 it’s not rare for sharks to swim along the shores, but that it is very rare to have this many sharks in one area at a time.

Shepard told us he saw about 20 sharks in the water near Alabama Point Monday morning. Monday evening, FOX10 crews flew in a helicopter to check it out for ourselves. Crews counted an upwards of 20 sharks as well.

Shepard offered some tips of how to protect yourself if you do come across the sharks.

“Early in the morning, late in the afternoon, a lot of people think that’s when sharks eat. That’s not necessarily their feeding time, but it’s low light situations, so it’s harder for them to detect prey,” explained Shepard, “If you’re out there swimming around, splashing, they might mistake you for prey. Also, if you do see a shark in the water, don’t panic, splashing around will only attract the shark more. Stay calm, and exit the water calmly.”

FOX10 spoke with a number of beach goers today about the sharks.

Some folks said they aren’t so worried.

“Yeah I’ve been in the water all day, I don’t care,” said Parker Lewis, who said he swam at Alabama Point Monday afternoon, “I mean, they really aren’t going to mess with you. It’s so many people, what’s the chances of it being me?”

Others said they didn’t take their chances.

I’m not getting in the water,” said Fletcher Williams, an Orange Beach resident.

 

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