Swimming With Sharks
How to avoid an attack.
One of the ocean’s deadliest predators, sharks are responsible for a relatively small number of fatalities, and yet they cause a great deal of fear. It’s true that the reported number of shark attacks is increasing each year, but it’s not because the number of sharks or their aggressiveness are increasing. Rather, it’s because there are more swimmers in the water than ever.
Each year around the world, an estimated 70 to 100 shark attacks occur, resulting in as many as 15 deaths. In the United States, an average of one person dies from a shark attack each year.
While the likelihood of being attacked by a shark is minuscule—you have a 1 in 11.5 million chance of being bitten—the fear is still there. Here are ways to lower your risk of being the next victim.
A Shark’s Senses
Sharks have terrible eyesight and an amazing sense of smell. Two things you don’t want to do are look like a fish and attract a shark with the scent of blood. Sharks don’t prefer human flesh for dinner, and when a shark bites a human it’s because the shark has mistaken the person for a fish. Splashing, kicking, and erratic movements in the water by people or pets may mimic a fish that’s in distress and may alert sharks to your presence. Bright, shiny, colorful fish scales attract sharks, and so do bright, shiny, colorful swimsuits, jewelry, and surfboards.
Surfers are frequent targets for sharks. What does a surfer’s silhouette look like from underneath their boards? A perfect seal meal for a shark.
If there’s one thing you know about sharks, it’s their uncanny ability to smell blood. They can smell a drop of blood from three miles away, so any time you have a bleeding wound, avoid getting in the water.
A Shark’s Habits
Animals know the best hunting grounds. When sharks are hungry, they head to where the fish are. Anytime you see lots of fish, dolphins, birds, or seals, chances are pretty good that sharks are congregating there as well. Mouths of rivers that feed into the ocean, ocean drop-offs, deep waters, and the area between shore and a sandbar are popular areas for sharks to gather as they look for food.
Since sharks are more active at night, it makes sense to stay out of the water after twilight and before sunrise. Fishing boats and fishermen’s bait are other shark magnets as they search for an easy meal, so stay out of the water when fishermen are nearby.
Lone swimmers are easier targets for sharks. Whenever you’re in the water, stay near shore, close to a group of people or at least one other friend, and always keep an eye on the waters around you. When sharks have been sighted in the water one day, there’s a good chance they’ll be nearby the next. Being creatures of habit, sharks typically return to the same waters over and over. Check with local lifeguards for shark sightings and heed warning flags that indicate the presence of dangerous sea creatures.
In the event you’re in the water with a shark, stay calm and avoid fast movement. If a shark feels threatened, he may turn on you. Stay calm and remember the shark is just curious and is looking for fish to eat. When you can, evacuate the water as soon as possible.
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