Then & Now: Dangerous waters "'Jaws' has been awfully good to me," Ira Loveday, a Port Aransas fisherman, told the San Antonio News in 1976. After dropping out of the business to sell insurance, he was taking visitors from across the nation on shark fishing cruises.
Web Posted: 03/20/2005 12:00 AM CST
Express-News Staff Writer
Stolen from mysa.com
Sharks are among the most feared sea creatures known to man, especially since a 1970s book and movie told of a great white shark terrorizing a small tourist town in Rhode Island.
But they rarely cause problems for Texans and are used in medicine and eaten as filets, kabobs and even shark fin soup. Some say they're being threatened today by humans.
The 1975 movie "Jaws" created a boon for shark fishing.
"'Jaws' has been awfully good to me," Ira Loveday, a Port Aransas fisherman, told the San Antonio News in 1976. After dropping out of the business to sell insurance, he was taking visitors from across the nation on shark fishing cruises.
In June 1977, Padre Island National Seashore closed to the public after a swarm of more than 2,000 sharks, mostly sand sharks and hammerheads measuring 6 to 12 feet, moved into shallow water off northern Padre Island for a few days. Puzzled marine biologists theorized they were breeding or chasing shrimp colonies.
In April 1987, a girl's arm was bitten off by a shark at Mustang Island State Park, the Associated Press reported. Three months later, a teenager and a 32-year-old woman were bitten in the legs in separate shark attacks about 30 minutes apart in 4-foot-deep water off the island, near Port Aransas.
The teen, Brenda King, 16, of Rockport, told the wire service she felt something bump her.
"I finally realized there was something sinking its teeth in me," said King, who was treated at an Aransas Pass hospital for wounds to her foot.
The 32-year-old, Kitt Viau of Port Aransas, said she was jumping in the waves, "and it came up from behind and grabbed my foot."
"Actually, I thought, 'This is it. I'm a goner,' so I started beating it in the head," Viau said.
She said she was pulled away by two friends. She was treated for a 5-inch gash on her foot.
One shark expert speculated algae blooms called red tide that had killed millions of small fish the previous year might have left the shark venturing to the beach to find food. Fishermen were reporting record catches that summer of blacktip and Atlantic sharp nose sharks.
"Sharks are normally shy," Robert S. Jones, director of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute at Port Aransas, told the San Antonio Express-News.
Texas, which usually has just one or two reported shark attacks per year, if any, had three more in 1990 and three last year, during the summer.
All of last year's incidents were in or close to Galveston.
In one attack, near Freeport, an 11-year-old boy was bitten on the hand, arm and leg. He escaped by punching the shark in the gills, a technique he'd seen on a TV documentary.
Though fatal shark attacks have occurred in recent years on the East and West coasts, Texas wildlife officials say there have been no fatalities here since the 1960s.
Last year, 61 unprovoked shark attacks occurred worldwide, including 30 in U.S. waters, according to the International Shark Attack File, a research group of the University of Florida in Gainesville. Florida has the most attacks, with 20 to 30 or more annually.
To avoid sharks, experts recommend swimmers stay with a group near shore in the day, stay out of the water if menstruating or bleeding from an open wound and not wear shiny jewelry or bright clothing.
Scientists have for years tested shark cartilage as a possible treatment for cancer, though results have been inconclusive. The cartilage also has been used to make artificial skin for burn patients and as a dietary supplement to relieve arthritis and psoriasis.
But conservationists have called for international measures including reductions in shark fishing, development of fishing nets safe for sharks and bans on "finning" — harvesting sharks for their fins — to protect the animals.
Shark populations are dropping "at a serious rate" or are at greatly reduced levels throughout much of the world as a result of overfishing and habitat loss, according to the Florida research group.