Shark attack prevention

The first step in shark attack prevention is understanding the risk. When you enter the water, you are visiting the shark’s home. Statistics show that you are more likely to die from a car crash than be killed by a shark or as the result of a shark bite.

shark attack prevention
Photo: Frank May

However, sharks do bite people and there are things you can do to avoid potential danger.

Shark attack prevention

  1. Do not go into the water if you see a shark.
  2. Know the area. Ask lifeguards or locals if sharks have been spotted in the area.
  3. Do not go in the water if you are bleeding. Blood attracts sharks. Menstrual blood that is contained within the body may not be an issue.
  4. Do not swim or enter the ocean during low light. Some sharks may be more active at night, dawn, and dusk, plus their vision could be impaired by the low light.
  5. Avoid swimming near river mouths that meet with the oceans waters. Bull sharks are known to feed in these areas and the water may be murky.
  6. Avoid swimming in murky water. Sharks hunt using a variety of senses including sight. If they sense your presence but can’t see you, they may come to investigate which could cause a negative interaction.
  7. Avoid swimming after storms when the water may be murky. After storms also avoid swimming near where rivers drain into the ocean. Dead animals may have been carried downstream and into the ocean, which could attract sharks.
  8. Avoid wearing yellow colored bathing suits. The term yum-yum yellow has been used to describe yellow neon bathing suits that appear to attract sharks. Bright colors pop in murky water and may draw a shark’s attention.
  9. Avoid wearing shiny jewelry. The sparkle of a jewel or chain may resemble fish scales to a predator.
  10. Brightly colored tattoos may also attract sharks to investigate.
  11. Use even strokes when swimming. Lots of splashing could sound like an injured fish.
  12. Swim in groups close to shore away from drop offs in the water. Including between sandbars
  13. If you see bait fish or birds diving in the water, swim away and towards the shore as calmly and quickly as possible. Sharks may be feeding.
  14. Don’t swim with seals or sea lions. They are prey for sharks.
  15. Don’t swim around fishermen. Their bait could attract sharks.
  16. If you see a shark, leave the water as calmly and quickly possible.
  17. Use your intuition. If you have a bad feeling,  leave the water.
Florida shark attack bite survivor shares her story
Photo: Denise Oosterveld

Being attacked or bitten by a shark

While the majority of people bitten by sharks never saw the shark coming, there are some things you can do should you come face to face with a shark.

  1. Call for help.
  2. Prepare to fight. Sharks are not use to prey fighting back.
  3. Face the shark. Keep an eye on it as you slowly swim to shore.
  4. If you see a shark is acting aggressively and you believe a bite is imminent, you may choose to fold your non-dominate arm into a V shape with your wrist facing toward your bicep (to protect your arteries) aiming your elbow directly at the shark.  Should the shark bite your arm, then it will be biting across two bones.
  5. Hit, rip, poke and tear at the sharks eyes and gills. Both are sensitive areas. Continue until the shark leaves.
  6. Alert other beachgoers to what has happened and seek medical attention (even a small bite could lead to infection). Surfboard leashes can be used as makeshift tourniquets.

Understanding a shark attack or bite

The state of Florida is considered the shark attack capitol of the world, as it has the highest number of negative shark interactions.  However, the use of the term shark attack is not 100% accurate.

The majority of shark attacks in the state would be better defined as shark bites. The reason behind this is that most of the interactions involve a one off bite. The theory is that the shark confuses a human with prey, takes an exploratory bite, realizes the human is not prey and then leaves.

There are also very few deaths in the state as the majority of encounters are bites and the sharks tend to be small.  While a bite from a small blacktip shark may be minor, a bite from an adult great white shark could be fatal.  The larger the shark is, the more damage it can inflict.

Another issue to be considered is the species of shark. While even normally docile sharks, such as nurse sharks have been known to bite when provoked, they cause very little damage. However, bull sharks have been filmed aggressively approaching divers and may charge humans in an effort to size us up.

Benoit_Raoul__tiger_shark_tiger_beach

Tiger sharks will eat anything, including humans. They are known as the trash cans of the sea and have been found with all sorts of debris in their bellies, including metal objects and tires.

Adult great whites have a massive bite radius. Even a test bite from such a large predator can be fatal.

Keep in mind that while this list is not all encompassing, those three species should be avoided by swimmers and surfers at all costs.

While the thought of a shark attack is very frightening, the reality is water itself is the real killer.

According to the Center for Disease Control “From 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day.”

While this article attempts to suggest some things you can do to aid in shark attack prevention, always use your best judgement when entering the water. Most importantly if you do encounter a shark, do not attempt to touch it.