COCOA BEACH, Florida – It’s not going to be a good day to go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean off of Cocoa Beach, Florida due to a large amount of Sargassum seaweed that has blown onshore and nearshore.
Although the Portuguese Man of War and other jellyfish typically arrive with the seaweed, they remain sparse as of Thursday morning.
But keep an eye out for sharks when you enter the water.
The presence of schools of baitfish nearshore along Cocoa Beach and Brevard County’s other beaches will draw sharks closer to the surf zone to feed where people swim, surf, and play.
Small Bonnethead sharks (also known as Shovelhead sharks) 2 to 3-feet-long that resemble Hammerhead sharks are present in the surf zone.
Spinner sharks 2 to 4-feet-long are present off of Cocoa Beach, primarily around, and just beyond, the wave break. Spinner sharks (Carcharhinus brevipinna) can grow up to 9 feet long and have a unique feeding technique of leaping into the air while spinning.
Blacktip sharks 2 to 4-feet-long are also present in the surf zone and shallow waters. Blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) are the number one species responsible for biting humans along the U.S. East Coast. The shark has black tips on its pectoral fins and grows to no more than about six feet.
Blacktip sharks can swim in just inches of water where toddlers often play.
Bull sharks (Carcharhinus brevipinna) are responsible for most of the fatal shark attacks in Florida. They are common along the east coast of Florida and juvenile bull sharks frequent the coast from Palm Beach, Florida to Daytona Beach, Florida.
That’s because of the Indian River Lagoon, which extends along Florida’s east coast from southern Volusia County to Palm Beach County, is an important nursery habitat for baby bull sharks.
When fully grown, bull sharks reach 7 to 11 feet in length and weigh between 200 and 300 pounds.
Historically, Florida has the most shark attacks in the months of July, August, September, and October, coinciding with increased shark and human activity when the ocean water temperature is warmest.
Volusia County (Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach area) has the highest number of shark attacks in Florida followed by neighboring Brevard County (Cocoa Beach area).
Historically, the two counties account for nearly half of all shark attacks in Florida each year.
Researchers say that the higher number of shark bites in Florida waters closest to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando is attributable to high aquatic recreational use by both Florida residents and tourists, including large numbers of surfers, and to the rich nature of its marine fauna.
In addition to spotting the telltale shark fins, fish jumping out of water or sea birds hovering at the surface of the water could indicate the presence of feeding sharks.
Always swim near a lifeguard area (their elevated position on a lifeguard tower is better for shark spotting) and pay attention to warning flags.
Avoid swimming from dusk to dawn because that is the time of day when sharks are more actively feeding.