Surf City Shark Attack
June 10, 2005, 3:09 PM EDT
SURF CITY, N.J. -- With the summer tourism season getting under way, about the worst things that could happen at the Jersey Shore are reports of a shark attack and nasty substances fouling the ocean waters and grossing out swimmers.
Both happened within a few days of each other this week, but residents and merchants say they still expect tourists to flock to the area.
"Whenever anything like that happens, people are concerned, but those things happen and then they go away and people still come back to the shore," said Barbara Steele, Ocean County's tourism director.
Indeed, things were already looking up Friday, with much of a miles-long brown tide of smelly, stringy algae moving out to sea from the Monmouth County shore, and a reported shark attack on a teenage surfer generating more curiosity than fear.
Businesses reported no drop in customers, and tourists were still lining up to pay top-dollar for rentals on Long Beach Island, including here in Surf City, where 17-year-old Ryan Horton of Lacey Township was bitten on the foot by what one researcher said could have been a small great white shark.
In fact, one pizzeria nearby was planning to offer a special "Great White Pizza."
"It's the talk of the town, and the mainland," said Mike Roessner of Waretown, a surfer who works a day job selling bagels around the corner from the 18th Street beach where Horton was injured. "Years ago, I think it would have scared people away and hurt business. But this society is such a 'Fear Factor' society that people are going down to that beach hoping to see it."
Others in town were less sanguine. The police department has still refused to confirm that a shark bit the teen; the police chief referred to the incident as "an alleged shark bite."
The boy's mother e-mailed a photo of the wound _ which took 50 stitches to close _ to George Burgess, the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research who maintains the International Shark Attack File, a compendium of information on shark attacks around the world.
Burgess said that based on the area, season and distinctive tooth marking in the bite pattern, it was "a slam dunk" that Horton was bitten by either a great white or a sandbar shark.
The attack would be the first in New Jersey in 30 years _ a fact that comforted some, but not all.