Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Shark encounters not uncommon in waters around Boca Ciega Bay

ST. PETE BEACH — Shark encounters apparently are not uncommon in the canal off Boca Ciega Bay where a 19-year-old was bitten by a suspected bull shark on Wednesday.

Herbert Donat, who lives a few doors down, said sharks have "bumped'' him.

"I've been working on my boat and dropped tools and been hunting around for stuff and gotten bumped,'' Donat said. "I've seen them come back and look at me. Usually, they don't bother me, though."

His neighbor Jenna James was not so lucky: She was bitten below her right knee while swimming near her family's dock at 7015 Boca Ciega Drive. Her injuries were serious but not life- threatening, rescuers said. Her family asked Bayfront Medical Center not to release information about her condition.

Hers would be the 13th shark attack in Pinellas County waters since 1882 and the second within two months, according to the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida.

Dana Joseph, a vacationer from Orlando, was bitten on the foot while swimming at dusk off Clearwater Beach on May 25. There was some skepticism about whether it was a shark that attacked Joseph, but researchers who examined photos of his injuries have confirmed they were shark bites.

Wednesday's attack happened less than 3 miles from the last known fatal shark attack in the Tampa Bay area.

George Burgess, director of the Shark Attack File, said the most likely culprit in her attack was a bull shark because of its propensity to hit larger prey and its tolerance for brackish water. Researchers hope to examine photos of James' injuries to confirm that it was indeed a shark attack and what kind.

Dr. Robert Hueter, director of the Center of Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, was struck by the proximity of Wednesday's attack to the fatal attack of Thadeus Kubinski, 69, on Aug. 30, 2000. His death was blamed on a 400-pound bull shark.

Sharks might be getting into the canals in that area at Pass-a-Grille "and getting somewhat trapped and staying longer and maybe having trouble finding food,'' Hueter said.

Burgess warned against a "shark scare in Boca Ciega Bay."

"When you have two attacks in the same general area in 10 years,'' Burgess said, "the phenomenon is a very uncommon one and ... maybe something in that area is attractive to bringing humans and sharks together at some level."

Burgess and Hueter are interested in the conditions preceding Wednesday's attack. Kubinksi jumped off his dock near a school of bait fish. James was swimming near her dock.

In the Kubinski case, the shark was likely "hanging with the mullet and working on dinner," Burgess said. "He jumped in and the attack occurred almost simultaneously. Mullet is a good likely candidate for being involved again."

The latest attack appeared to have little effect on beachgoers, who parasailed, basked and netted small fish Thursday just a few miles away.

While swimming in the murky waters of the canals off Boca Ciega Bay is not uncommon, some of James' neighbors consider it unwise.

"I would never do that. You don't know what's in there," said Connie Blankenship, who lives on nearby 72nd Avenue. "If I can't see through it, I'm not going in."

Carole Jackson of Atlanta, who was vacationing three homes from the James residence, was surprised to see someone lying on a raft in the canal on Monday.

"I thought that was strange," she said. "We'll stick to the pool.".

Shark encounters not uncommon in waters around Boca Ciega Bay 07/23/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 31, 2009 5:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What you need to know for Thursday, Oct. 19


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today

    White nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to speak at the University of Florida tonight and the school is on high alert for tensions. [Associated Press]
  2. Bowen: Park land deal raises Penny for Pasco questions


    The Penny for Pasco is unambiguous.

    At least it is supposed to be.

    There was no equivocating in 2004 when Penny for Pasco supporters detailed how the sales tax proceeds would be spent: schools, transportation, public safety and environmental lands. No money for parks. No money for recreation.

    Pasco County is considering a loan from its Environmental Lands Acquisition and Mangement Program to buy land for a park in the Villages of Pasadena Hills in east-central Pasco. Shown here is the Jumping Gully Preserve in Spring Hil, acquired by ELAMP in 2009 and 2011.
[Douglas R. Clifford, Times]
  3. Another Tampa Bay agency loses tax credits worth millions in dispute over application error


    LARGO — Another Tampa Bay housing agency has lost out on a multi-million dollar tax credit award because of problems with its application.

    A duplex in Rainbow Village, a public housing complex in Largo. The Pinellas County Housing Authority is planning to build new affordable-housing in the complex but was recently disqualified from a state tax credit award because of an issue with its application.
  4. Live blog: Many unknowns as Richard Spencer speaks in Gainesville today


    GAINESVILLE — A small army of law enforcement officers, many of them from cities and counties around the state, have converged on the University of Florida in preparation for today's speaking appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

    Florida Highway Patrol cruisers jammed the parking lot Wednesday at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center in Gainesville, part of a big show of force by law enforcement ahead of Thursday's appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer. [KATHRYN VARN | Times]
  5. As Clearwater Marine Aquarium expands, it asks the city for help


    CLEARWATER — When Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates saw an architect's initial design for the facility's massive expansion project, he told them to start all over.

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium Veterinarian Shelly Marquardt (left), Brian Eversole, Senior Sea Turtle and Aquatic Biologist (middle) and Devon Francke, Supervisor of Sea Turtle Rehab, are about to give a rescued juvenile green sea turtle, suffering from a lot of the Fibropapillomatosis tumors, fluids at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Wednesday afternoon. Eventually when the turtle is healthy enough the tumors will be removed with a laser and after it is rehabilitated it will be released back into the wild.  -  The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is launching a $66 million renovation to expand its facilities to take in injured animals and space to host visitors. The aquarium is asking the city for a $5 million grant Thursday to help in the project. American attitudes toward captive animals are changing. Sea World is slipping after scrutiny on the ethics of captive marine life. But CEO David Yates says CMA is different, continuing its mission of rehab and release, it's goal is to promote education, not exploitation. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times