Thousands of sharks have been spotted migrating off the coast of south Florida this month, forcing officials to close down several beaches in the area.
Marine biologists say an estimated 15,000 sharks are making their annual trip north through the Atlantic after heading south for the winter, according to West Palm Beach local station WPTV.com
. Shark sightings have been reported from Boca Raton to Jupiter since the beginning of March.
Most of the sharks are reportedly spinners, a breed known to leap out the water and spin in the air as they hunt their prey.
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Though shark attacks aren't extremely common — in 2011, there were 17 reported fatalities stemming from 118 shark attacks worldwide — experts say during January and February swimmers are a lot closer to the animals than they might think.
"Our data has shown that the bulk of the migration occurs in January and February, but it may be a little behind this year due to the warmer weather and water temperatures," Steve Kajiura, a shark researcher with Florida Atlantic University's Elasmobranch Research Laboratory in Boca Raton, told TC Palm. "It is surprising to think there may be a shark swimming 60 feet away from us."
But even with the volume of sharks in the water, chances of an attack are low because sharks don’t see humans as food, Kajiura said.
"There are thousands of sharks right there, and yet this year, there have been no bites in Palm Beach County waters," he told TC Palm.
Meanwhile, researchers on Sunday made history when they captured, tagged, and released the first great white shark ever off the southeastern U.S. coast, a 2,000-pound giant named Lydia.
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Ocearch, a non-profit organization devoted to studying the "ocean's giants," captured the great white off the coast near Jacksonville. Lydia was named for Bradley University founder Lydia Moss Bradley, a long-time friend of Ocearch sponsor Caterpillar Inc.
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