George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History, speculates that several environmental factors could be pushing sharks to congregate in the Outer Banks. It is a warm year, and the water has a higher level of salinity because of a low-level drought in the area. Also, a common species of forage fish — menhaden — has been abundant this year and might have attracted more sharks to the area. Burgess also says some fishermen put bait in the water near piers, which could lure the predators closer to shore; two of the encounters took place within 100 yards of a pier. “That’s a formula for shark attacks,” Burgess says of these conditions, taken together. “Now, does that explain seven attacks in three weeks? No, it doesn’t.”
Burgess says not to swim near seals, where fishing is occurring, or near other things that sharks find tasty. Sharks can sniff out blood, so don't swim with open wounds. And leave your bling on the beach — sharks are curious about bright, shiny objects, so don't lure them with baubles. Also avoid swimming at dawn and dusk, when sharks tend to feed. Stick together in groups and stay out of the water during and after storms. Aside from dangerous surf and rip currents, decreased water visibility can confuse sharks, prompting mistaken-identity bites. "Always remember," concludes Burgess. "They have bigger teeth, but we have bigger brains."