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Hundreds of sharks spotted off Florida

Florida shark
One of the hundreds of sharks spotted Tuesday north of Tampa, Florida.  

TAMPA, Florida (CNN) -- Officials issued public warnings Tuesday after hundreds of sharks were spotted in the waters off the west coast of Florida north of Tampa.

Kevin Doll, public information officer for the Pasco County Sheriff's Department, said officers from the department's marine unit spotted the sharks from the air.

Doll said several types of sharks were in the waters near the island of Anclote Key, including bull sharks, hammerheads and black-tipped sharks. Some of the sharks were reported to be more than 10 feet long.

Sharks have been in the news recently after several highly publicized attacks. On July 6, a young Mississippi boy had his arm bitten off by a shark at Pensacola Beach in northwest Florida. Doctors were able to reattach the boy's arm, and he is now recovering at home.

Public safety officials issue warnings against swimming and boating in area where sharks are seen congregating (August 14)

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Jeffery Swanagan, director of the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, watched video footage of the sharks spotted off Anclote Key and said most of the creatures appeared to be black-tipped sharks.

Most black-tipped sharks are fairly small, Swanagan said, seldom reaching more than 6 feet long. He also said black-tipped sharks are not highly aggressive.

But would he enter the waters near Anclote Key?

"I wouldn't recommend it -- I have five children," he said.

The aquarium director said gatherings of sharks are not that unusual along the Florida coast, where there are lots of bait fish for the sharks to eat.

What can a swimmer do to avoid becoming a shark victim? Swanagan offered these tips:

-- Don't swim in water that is murky.

-- Don't swim early in the morning or late at night.

-- Don't wear flashy jewelry.

-- Swim with others; don't swim alone.

• International Shark Attack File
• The Pelagic Shark Research Foundation

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