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Beach Business Owners Hope Prior Shark Attacks Will Not Affect Tourism

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AVON, N.C. — The first fatal shark attack in North Carolina in 44 years sent shock waves through the Outer Banks. Business owners are hopeful that the ordeal will not permanently scar their reputation as a favorite vacation spot.

The beach in Avon on Hatteras Island is still quiet this time of year, waiting for throngs of summer visitors. Some business owners are worried that last year's deadly shark attack at Avon may keep tourists away.

"We have had several phone calls from people who are concerned about the incidents with the sharks last year," said Mary Doll of the National Park Service.

Doll said fatal shark attacks in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina scared some people out of the water, but there is no bias against one beach in particular.

"I don't think people are going to be pointing the finger at the Outer Banks saying this is not the place to go," Doll said.

Despite last year's tragedy, the people in Avon have a sense of humor about sharks. They say it's the only way to get past it. They don't believe it will affect business this summer.

"They (tourists) will just go on with their life and come down here normally like they always have," store manager Virginia Hawkins said.

The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island attracts visitors who want to see sharks up close in their "Graveyard of the Atlantic" tank. Curators say most shark attacks are a case of mistaken identity. By nature, sharks do not prey on humans.

"It was just a terrible mistake. I don't think it will happen again," museum curator Terri Hathaway said.

"I think a lot of people have put this behind them and they realize that shark attacks are random things," Doll said.

Every year, an estimated 2 million people visit the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. So far this year, merchants claim business is down a little, but they attribute that to the events of Sept. 11 and the economy, not sharks.

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