Chopper searching for sharks near Orange Beach; closed beach could reopen

Chopper searching for sharks near Orange Beach; closed beach could reopen

Chopper searching for sharks near Orange Beach; closed beach could reopen

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 10, 2014 at 11:49 AM

Kimberly Blair / Pensacola News Journal

An Orange Beach, Ala., firefighter is taking to the sky at 10 a.m. to scan the waters around Alabama Point for sharks.

If the number of sharks have decreased near shore, public safety officials may reopen a 1-mile stretch that has been closed since Saturday to swimmers, said Melvin Shepard, beach safety director.

"The thing I'm worried about is the water has gotten real choppy overnight and it will make seeing them very hard," he said.

In the meantime, double red flags are still flying at Orange Beach closing the water to swimmers from Alabama Point east to the shell lot near the Caribe Resort until the sharks leave the area, he said.

And single red flags are flying to warn swimmers all along the 9-mile stretch of Orange Beach of dangerous rip currents.

"We're doing everything to keep the people safe," Shepard said.

Water safety officials closed the 1-mile stretch of beach after a large number of sharks were spotted by a tour helicopter in the pass at Alabama Point on Friday.

At the time there were eight sharks photographed in the pass and over the weekend the numbers swelled to more than 20.

"We think a lot has to do with snapper fishing," Melvin said on Monday. "A lot of people are cleaning their fish and tossing them into the water (at the pass). We're hoping with snapper season ending today, people will stop dumping their carcases and the sharks will disperse."

Shepard said eyewitnesses say the sharks are bulls, but he's not certain. They range in size from 6- to 7-feet-long with some just 3-feet-long.

On Monday about 20 sharks were still hanging out near sandbars near and around the pass where people swim.

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