Swimming with (more) sharks

This 13-foot-long tiger shark was caught less than a mile off the Washout at Folly Beach this summer. (Provided)

Reports of shark attacks along the Southeast coast have come with unnerving regularity this year — especially for swimmers at local beaches.

But so have familiar assurances from experts that the risks of actually being the victim of a shark bite remain quite low.

Now, however, official documentation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed what many non-experts suspected about sharks. According to a Post and Courier story last week: “A lot more of them are out there.”

The evidence revealing the rise in shark population in coastal waters from Florida to Delaware came from this year’s NOAA survey that captured and tagged 2,835 of them — the highest number since the program began in 1986.

That total was 55 percent above the number of sharks captured and tagged in 2012, the last time the survey was conducted. Do the math: More sharks in the water = more risk of being bitten by one.

And many of those sharp-toothed predators aren’t the little ones frequently reeled in at the beach. A 13-foot, 800-pound tiger shark was caught by a commercial fishing boat less than mile off the Folly Beach Washout last month.

Of course, swimming in the ocean has always meant swimming with sharks — and, among other denizens of the deep and not so deep, crabs, stingrays and jellyfish.

Yet if shark ranks — and the number of bites they put on humans — keep rising, the number of our kind willing to venture into the waves just might start falling.