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Report Filed by AAF Correspondent J. David Varty
from The Scotsman Online


US shark expert seriously bitten in Bahamas

April 12, 2002

A SHARK expert known for unusual research methods and "pushing the envelope" in his studies has been badly bitten by a shark in the Bahamas.

Dr Erich Ritter, chief scientist for the Global Shark Attack File, based in Princeton, New Jersey, was bitten in the calf by a 350lb bull shark during filming of a Discovery Channel programme off Walker’s Cay, the Bahamas, on Tuesday.

"It was a serious injury," said Marie Levine, executive director of the Shark Research Institute in Princeton. "He’s going to be in the hospital for four or five more weeks."

A series of particularly gruesome shark attacks, including one in which a boy lost an arm to a shark in Florida, were widely reported last summer. But experts say shark attacks are rare and might be increasing only because more people are using the oceans for recreation.

Mr Ritter, 43, was bitten in murky, waist-deep water as he worked with lemon, black-tip and bull sharks, Ms Levine said.

The bull shark was chasing a remora fish and bit Mr Ritter by accident. "There was food in the water about 15 yards from Erich. A bull shark closed on the remora but in the low visibility bit Erich instead."

The shark’s teeth went to the bone and Mr Ritter was rushed to a hospital in Florida, where he underwent an arterial graft.

"They were really pushing the envelope," Ms Levine said. "This is one of those things that can happen when you’re working with big animals."

But Sam Gruber, a University of Miami shark expert who worked with Mr Ritter in the 1990s, said his methods were scorned and called him "an accident waiting to happen".

"He has been getting more and more fearless, or some would say bold. This method is basically to titillate TV cameras. He wants to impress people that he can control these sharks and they will never bite him."

c. 2002

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