OFFICIALS alert swimmers after hundreds of sharks seen gathering off western Florida coast

Tuesday, August 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ANCLOTE KEY, Fla. (AP) _ Hundreds of sharks have been sighted this week off central Florida's west coast, prompting officials to warn swimmers and scientists to ponder what is luring them here.

Bull sharks, hammerheads and nurse sharks were among those spotted by sheriff's marine patrols in the shallow Gulf of Mexico waters off Pasco County, northwest of Tampa, officials said Tuesday. Some of the sharks are up to 10 feet long.

Pasco County Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll said the sharks were first sighted Monday. No one has been bitten.

Terri Behling, a spokeswoman for Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, said it is too early to speculate what might be luring the sharks. Experts, who may visit the area as early as Wednesday, first need to determine the sharks' species and size, she said.

Behling said it is not unusual for sharks to swim up and down the gulf coastline, following tarpon. But a congregation of different species is unusual, she said.