A teenage girl was seriously injured in a shark attack at a Florida beach on Thursday, authorities said.
The attack happened at Keaton Beach in northwestern Florida’s Taylor County. The unidentified girl was scalloping in water approximately 5 feet deep near Grassy Island, just of Keaton Beach, when she was bitten by a shark, according to the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office.
“A family member reportedly jumped in the water and beat the shark until the juvenile was free,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
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The girl suffered “serious injuries” and had to be airlifted to a hospital in Tallahassee, about 80 miles northwest of Keaton Beach, according to the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office said the type of shark that attacked was unclear but it was described as approximately 9 feet long.
“Swimmers and scallopers are cautioned to be alert, vigilant, and practice shark safety,” the sheriff’s office added. “Some rules to follow are: never swim alone, do not enter the water near fishermen, avoid areas such as sandbars (where sharks like to congregate), do not swim near large schools of fish, and avoid erratic movements while in the water.”
Shark attacks increased worldwide in 2021 after three consecutive years of decline, though the previous year’s significantly low numbers were attributed to lockdowns and restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to yearly research conducted by the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File.
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Florida has topped the global charts in the number of shark bites for decades, and the trend continued in 2021, researchers said. Out of 73 unprovoked incidents recorded around the world last year, 28 were in Florida, representing 60% of the total cases in the United States and 38% of cases worldwide. That number was consistent with Florida’s most recent five-year annual average of 25 shark attacks, according to researchers.