Florida media liaison eaten alive by media in wake of sharkattacks

VOLUSIA COUNTY, FL: Joe Wooden, deputy chief of Volusia County

beach operations and media liaison, said he gave 44 media interviews in

24 hours after six people were bitten by sharks in a single weekend.



Beginning at 5am for radio interviews and ending with international

interviews at 11pm, Wooden said he came home and fell into bed with his

clothes on.



To bite back at the shark media frenzy, Wooden has dished out

statistics.



He said he acknowledges that New Smyrna Beach is on its way to a

record-breaking summer with between 15 and 17 people bitten by sharks

this year.



Just a few more, and the Volusia County Beach Patrol will break its 1996

record of treating 18 shark attacks.



But Wooden said he is being careful to put the figures into context.



While Florida and the Daytona Beach area lead the world in shark bites

every year, 90% of those bites occur in one inlet frequented by

surfers.



The majority of the county's 10 million annual beach visitors never

visit the surfer spot, making their bite risk minimal.



Wooden said he also makes a distinction between bites and attacks, a

point he said the media sometimes does not clarify. Bites may only

require minor medical attention, while attacks can kill.



"I tell them that in Daytona Beach, you have a better chance of winning

the Florida lottery than you do of being bitten by a shark," said

Wooden.



However, there are no communications plans in place to give surfers more

information because, Wooden said, surfers seem unconcerned by the

dangers.



"We speak to that audience on a daily basis," said Wooden, "but for the

most part, they are reluctant to even listen because they have

absolutely no concern for sharks in the water."



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