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Q&A with W. Clay Creswell, author of Sharks in the Shallows

June 15, 2021 | by scpress

W. Clay Creswell has been a North and South Carolina region shark-bite investigator for the Shark Research Institute Global Shark Attack File since 2004. A trusted media resource for the National Geographic Channel's series When Sharks Attack and local television, newspaper, and online news outlets, Creswell is an environmental health program specialist with the Pender County Health Department in North Carolina. Sharks in the Shallows is on sale June 14, 2021.

What sparked your interest in sharks?

I have been interested in sharks since I was a child. I remember seeing the movie Jaws at the theatre when I was 5 years old! I loved it, and I still remember how it felt seeing that movie for the first time. I have been reading about sharks, collecting shark teeth, gathering shark bite information and shark sighting material, especially any that have occurred in the Carolinas, from my childhood to today.

What can readers hope to learn from this book?

It is my hope that readers will learn to replace the exaggerated fear many of us have of sharks with a healthy respect for them, and also gain true appreciation for the valuable role sharks play in our world. Readers will learn about shark behavior, and what triggers them to sometimes bite a person. Readers will also learn how to reduce their chances of encountering a shark when utilizing the ocean. Many shark attack cases that have occurred in the Carolinas and in other parts of the world are discussed in detail in the book, and while some of them are extreme, readers will discover that these events are very rare when compared to other ocean-related hazards.

What advice do you have to swimmers on the Carolina Coast?

Swimmers should understand that when they enter the ocean, or any natural body of water, they are entering a wilderness environment and not a swimming pool. Sharks, along with rip currents, undertows, jellyfish, and stingrays, are potential hazards. Arming oneself with basic knowledge of where and when it is safe to and when it is NOT safe to enter the water is important information. It is a responsibility that can save your own life and the lives of your loved ones - I hope to arm my readers with this basic and valuable information.

What is the most common misconception about sharks that you would like to debunk?

There are two extreme misconceptions about sharks that I would like to debunk.

The first and most important is the thought of sharks as mindless creatures that will attack a person at any given opportunity. Sharks are not mindless animals; however, they don’t know what a person is, and anytime a shark attack occurs there is some motivating factor that has triggered the animal to engage the person such as mistaken identity, defense or territorial reasons, harassment from the individual, or on rare occasions to feed.

On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t believe it is wise to swim with sharks, touch them, and feed them in the wild. Sharks can be unpredictable, and therefore swimming too close to dangerous species is not a wise decision. There is also evidence that feeding sharks in the wild can aid in training them to associate the site of a person with getting to be fed.

How do shark attack statistics off the Carolina Coast compare to other parts of the country or even world?

North and South Carolina rank in the top ten regions in the world in terms of shark attack numbers. The great majority of Carolina cases however result in minor injuries to the victim.

What are you working on now?

I am continuing my ongoing study of shark attack and shark behavior research in the Carolinas with the Shark Research Institute’s Global Shark Attack File. I also continue to work as an Environmental Health Program Specialist with the Pender County Health Department in North Carolina.

My wife and I have also started a business where we custom make necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and charms utilizing our collection of shark teeth, sea glass, beach glass, and seashells. It is called Coastal Carolina Charm. We currently have a space at the Blue Moon Giftshop in Wilmington, NC, plus we have a Facebook page and a Facebook group page where people can see our creations and contact us for ordering.

I am also working on getting four additional books published. One is a fiction book of horror stories that are inspired by true events. The other three are children’s books.

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