Beachgoers in New Jersey are being urged to use caution ahead of the busy Memorial Day weekend after a 15-year-old girl was injured by an apparent shark bite.
Emergency personnel responded to Stone Harbor’s 109th Street Beach on Sunday afternoon after receiving reports of someone injured in a possible shark attack while surfing, according to a news release from Stone Harbor officials.
Maggie Drozdowski, the injured teen, told CNN affiliate WPVI she was dangling from her surfboard with her body in the water when she felt something on her leg.
“I thought it was just a crab pinching my foot, but it felt bigger than that,” Drozdowski said. “My whole foot was in its mouth. I was shaking my foot as hard as I could. It was hard. It was really heavy.”
The encounter lasted about five seconds, Drozdowski said, and she paddled herself back to shore. She had several lacerations to her left foot and calf and was taken to Cape Regional Medical Center, where she received six stitches, authorities said.
Drozdowski told WPVI she didn’t see what bit her, but the New Jersey State Southern Regional Medical Examiner said her injuries were consistent with those typically associated with a shark of unknown size and type, the release stated.
Despite Sunday’s incident, no restrictions on beach activities have been planned ahead of Memorial Day, but beachgoers are being urged to be cautious, the release stated. Experts advise safety precautions, like removing reflective jewelry and staying out of fishing areas.
“Stone Harbor remains a beloved and popular destination for beachgoers from near and far. The local police and fire departments are fully committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of both residents and tourists,” Stone Harbor Mayor Judy Davies-Dunhour said in the release.
The encounter in New Jersey happened days after two men in the Florida Keys were bitten by sharks last week while fishing. In one case, a shark bit an angler on the foot after it had been reeled in and onto the dock where he was fishing, officials said.
In Hawaii, a 58-year-old man was left in serious condition after being bitten by a shark off the south shore of Oahu last month, emergency officials said.
And a kayaker in Hawaii recently shared gripping video of a tiger shark slamming into his boat while he was fishing in shallow waters.
Overall, shark attacks are extremely rare. A person has a 1 in 4,332,817 chance of dying due to a shark encounter in their lifetime, compared to a 1 in 79,746 chance of dying after being struck by lightning, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File.
The number of unprovoked shark attacks worldwide decreased last year, which tied with 2020 for the fewest number of reported incidents in the last 10 years, according to the Florida group.
Despite the overall decrease, the group noted spikes in unprovoked shark attacks in certain areas, like New York, which recorded eight bites in 2022, six of which were confirmed. With 16 unprovoked bites, Florida had the most reported bites of anywhere in the world last year.
The University of Florida experts make a distinction between unprovoked attacks, which they say provide insight into the behavior of sharks, and those that are prompted by outside circumstances, like fishing lines cast in feeding areas.