Six people have been attacked by sharks over the past few weeks off the North Carolina coast, including two this weekend, and while local officials are spinning their wheels to figure out why the numbers have been so high this summer, some experts think they may have it figured out. The likely culprit: shark fishing, which is legal on the state's beaches and piers, ABC News reports. The bait and chum used to lure sharks may be doing too good a job, attracting them perilously close to the shoreline and its swimmers; ABC notes that several of the recent attacks have occurred near fishing piers. "If we fed bears right in Yellowstone, people would be screaming," the executive director of the Shark Research Institute tells ABC.
With this theory floated, some are now calling for a ban on shark fishing in parts of the state, even if just temporarily during summer's busiest weekends. But at least one expert doesn't agree with this hunch: The director of the NC Division of Marine Fisheries thinks the shark population has jumped due to laws banning commercial shark fishing, per ABC. Whatever the reason, it hasn't seemed to significantly affect beachgoers' summer plans. "Everybody is out in the ocean, having a good time and playing on the beach," a Surf City shop employee tells WFAL. (One of the teen victims attacked in North Carolina is staying positive.)