Every time summer rolls around and we make our plans to visit the ocean, fears of shark attacks surge. Shows like Shark Week and When Sharks Attack adds fuel to these fears and have made our days at the beach just a bit more stressful.
But how often do sharks really attack humans?
Florida Museum reports 130 cases of shark attacks worldwide in 2018. Does that sound like a lot to you? Well, keep in mind that 34 of those attacks were considered “provoked” or instigated by humans. This could mean divers who pursue sharks and attempt to get near them, people who try to feed sharks or any other situation where humans are the ones initiating contact.
More of the remaining 96 attacks were categorized as attacks on boats, on persons already deceased, or as potentially made by another animal. All in all, only 66 of the 130 cases were labeled “unprovoked” meaning the type of attack we think of when we think shark attack: a dark form in the water creeping up on unsuspecting swimmers, appearing as if out of nowhere.
So when you look at it, your odds of getting attacked by a shark are quite low. According to The Wildlife Museum, you are more likely to die from fireworks, lightning, drowning, and car accidents than being attacked by a shark.
Even so, shark attacks do occur, and it’s never a bad idea to take precautions.
The following tips will give you peace of mind the next time you’re at the beach, so you can kick back and really enjoy that vacation.
Know shark behavior
It’s good to have a general understanding of shark behavior before heading into the water. USA Today explains that sharks are typically more active during late afternoon, overnight, and early morning hours, so it’s best to avoid a sunset or sunrise swim.
They also prey mostly on seals, but can sometimes go for groups of fish or dolphins as well. This means that if you see any of these animals in the water, you should stay far away and even get back onshore.
Sometimes humans look like seals to a shark swimming below, so avoid doing things like heavy splashing or hanging hands and feet over your surfboard as this can read as seal behavior to a shark. Bringing pets into the water is also advised against, as their erratic splashing indicates prey.
National Geographic informs us that sharks eyes are particularly keen to bright colors and jewelry, so it’s best not to wear them on a beach trip. Avoid areas like channels, murky waters, and drop-offs, as that’s where sharks like to hang out.
As they say, knowing your enemy is the only way to beat them.
Avoid the dangerous beaches
There are certain areas where sharks are more likely to be active than others.
People provides a map of all the shark attacks to happen in 2019 as of August 9th. Take a look before packing your beach bag, and if you find that you’re headed to a place where attacks have happened before, be extra careful in the water.
So far the beach with the most shark attacks this year has been New Smyrna Beach in Florida, with seven attacks total. It apparently has ideal waters for sharks and surfers alike, according to People, the most attacks have been “exploratory” with none of them proving fatal.
Steer clear of beaches like New Smyrna and your odds of being attacked will go down.
A lot of avoiding shark attacks comes down to keeping your own wits about you. Understand that the water is their habitat, not yours, and treat it as such.
Don’t head out far from shore all on your own, as sharks are more likely to target an animal that is vulnerable and solitary. This is pretty much common sense when you think about how any animal hunts, whether it be a shark or a lion or a hawk. So stay close to your fellow humans, among the frolicking children and families, and you will be safer.
You’ve probably also heard the famous fact that sharks can smell blood from miles away. This means you shouldn’t go in the water if you have an open wound or a bloody nose, etc. Should you get hit by a frisbee in the water and start bleeding, go ahead and get out of the ocean.
Despite following all of these tips, there is still a tiny, minuscule chance that you could be bitten by a shark. Should you find yourself in this situation, fight as hard as you can. Don’t hold back! Punch at the eyes, mouth, and gills. The shark may just decide you’re too much trouble to be worth it.
It’s important to remember that despite our fears surrounding sharks, it is sharks that should be more afraid of us.
The Wildlife Museum shows that over 100 million sharks are killed by humans each year. That works out to about 11,000 sharks killed every hour. These animals are not malicious, they are not monsters, and they are not out to get us like Jaws might make it seem. They are simply large predators who mistake humans for food, humans that are invading their home and not the other way around.
So follow these precautions, enjoy the beach, and most of all have respect for the world’s sharks. They are simply trying to survive, just like us!