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Scientist not surprised at Jacksonville ranking high for shark bites

A recent study shows Jacksonville has the fifth most shark bites recorded in U.S. history.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida is known by many as the Sunshine State, but it also has a less popular title, 'Shark Bite Capital of the World'

Shark experts say there are many reasons these kings of the ocean are often found close to shore.

Dr. Bryan Franks is an assistant professor of marine science at Jacksonville University and is not surprised by the rankings, compiled by boat company Staten Island Yachts.

"There’s a lot of common factors involved, and a big one of those is climate which is related to the amount of people in the water,” Franks said.

Duval County ranks fifth for most recorded shark bites in U.S. history.

Volusia County ranks at the top of the list with 320 recorded attacks, Brevard County is next at 153, followed by Palm Beach County at 80, Maui County in Hawaii at 69, Duval County at 46 and St. Johns County at 44.

Much like snowbirds, various species of sharks make their migratory trip down the East Coast.

"A lot of times when they’re migrating they are feeding on these schools of bait, which these schools of bait will often come close to shore,” Franks said.

He says not to worry if you're going for a swim. Shark encounters are still rare and typically not severe. Most sharks bite and release their teeth once they realize it's not a fish.

According to the study, you're more likely to die getting struck by lightning than getting bit by a shark.

Franks says it's important for swimmers to keep an eye on their surroundings when entering the ocean.

“We know sharks are important for our oceans but when we do go into that environment, we’re entering their realm,” Franks said.

The International Shark Attack File also recommends steps like swimming with a friend and staying close to shore to keep you and your family safe this summer.

Related: Jacksonville ranks fifth highest in nation for shark attacks