This was magnified this past spring when a video surfaced of a 9-foot bull shark swimming near the sea wall of a condo near Hickory Boulevard.
Representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission attended the November 4 meeting of the Bonita Springs City Council to give a public presentation regarding the dangers posed by sharks in this area. Or rather, on the lack of danger they pose.
Brent Winner, fisheries management scientist with the FWC, reported that there have only been a handful of shark bites in Lee County since 2003. None of these reported incidents resulted in fatalities. Winner, who gave the presentation along with biological scientist Nancy Sheridan, said that most risks associated with sharks stem from increasing human populations along the coast.
“It's not a matter of more sharks in the water or that they're changing their habits," Winner said. "The more time people spend in the water, the more likely they are to interact with a shark."
The FWC also addressed the act of chumming waters in the practice of shark fishing, stating that it does not increase the risk of shark attacks.
"We could not find a trend that there is an increase in shark attacks associated with chumming from shore," Sheridan said. "The chum they're putting in the water doesn't stay there. Currents run perpendicular to the shoreline so the chum rides along with the current."
The meeting also saw the Council defeat a measure that would have put a potential Council pay raise on the referendum of the next election. While Mayor Ben Nelson and Councilmembers Janet Martin and Steven Slachta, none of whom can seek reelection due to term limits, were in favor of sending the issue to the voters. The reason for their support was to increase compensation for future seat holders and thereby make seeking office more viable for a larger pool of candidates.
The other four Councilmembers rejected the idea.
"I ran as a civic duty, and the money does help some since it's a big responsibility that involves a lot of time," Councilman Mike Gibson said. "However, I cannot see giving myself more taxpayer money for this."
By Trent Townsend