While the movie "Jaws" has succeeded in making sharks appear to be the vicious predators of the sea, sharks do not actually hunt humans. In fact, sharks have become the prey of humans, which has resulted in the decimation of many shark populations.
Statistically, there are a large number of other beach activities that are more likely to lead to death than shark attacks. The odds of being attacked by a shark at the beach are one in 11.5 million. Unfortunately for the reputation of sharks, when they do bite a human, it is much more newsworthy than other sources of beach-related mortality.
Beach activities with higher fatality rates than shark attacks:
- Getting hit in the head by a coconut
- Collapsing sand
- Driving to the beach
- Boating accidents
- Injuries/Fatalities from surfing
While the probability of being attacked by a shark is relatively slim, there are a number of precautions that can be taken to avoid shark bites.
10 Tips for Avoiding Shark Bites*:
- Do not swim at dusk, dawn or night. Sharks are most active during these times.
- Avoid murky or unclean water. Sharks will be more likely to mistake you for prey and you will be less likely to see it coming.
- Do not swim, dive or surf alone. Sharks are more likely to bite a single person. Also swim near a lifeguard so help is near by, should you need it.
- Avoid excessive splashing and bringing pets in the water. Erratic movements portray distress and can attract sharks.
- Do not enter the water if you are bleeding, do not bring dead or bleeding fish into the water and avoid areas where fishing is occurring. Sharks have great senses and can detect the slightest hint of blood.
- Do not wear jewelry or shiny bathing suits. Glistening light looks like fish scales to a shark’s eye.
- Avoid wearing brightly colored suits or having an uneven tan line. Sharks see contrast well.
- If in an areas with a lot of sharks, try to remain vertical. This prevents you from looking like a seal and other larger prey.
- Stay close to shore and avoid going near steep drop-offs and channel openings. Prey species and sharks congregate in these locations.
- Remember that when entering the ocean, you are entering the shark’s environment and these wild animals must be treated with caution.
*Adapted from George H. Burgess, International Shark Attack File.