Saturday, June 18, 2005

Great white shark responsible for attack

Talk about timing: An expert has confirmed that it was indeed a shark — probably what is commonly known as a Great White — that attacked 17-year-old Ryan Horton of Lacey Township while he was surfing June 5 off 18th Street in Surf City.

That means Horton's shark bite is the state's first unprovoked shark attack in 30 years — in other words, the first such event since 1975, the same year that "Jaws," Steven Spielberg's film about a man-eating shark, debuted at movie theaters across the country.

"I was surfing, I was up and then I fell off and it felt like a baseball bat had whacked my foot," Horton told the Press. "He bit into my foot and tore off a big part of my flesh and skin."

George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File, confirmed it was a white shark bite after seeing photographs of Horton's wound. Burgess told the Press that Horton's bite is the first unprovoked shark bite in 30 years and the 16th ever in the state.

Dr. Richard G. Fernicola, who wrote a book about the deadly shark attacks of 1916 in Matawan Creek and along the Jersey Shore (which inspired the "Jaws" movies), said, "A doctor in the emergency room would never say it was a shark bite unless they were certain because of all the unnecessary hysteria it would cause."

Fran Drew, executive director of the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan, remembers the hysteria over shark attacks when the movie was released in 1975. Since that time, "Jaws" author Peter Benchley of Princeton has publicly decried the hunting that led to the species' near-extinction.

Drew said she was angered at the film's demonization of sharks.

"(The movie) did a great disservice to sharks. Sport fishing boat captains took great pleasure in hunting sharks for sport and nailing their fins on the pilings," Drew remembered.

The Algonquin Arts Theatre will not be showing "Jaws" in its summer outdoor movie series, but will screen "Flipper."


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