By now everyone on the planet including sharks knows about Shark Week. For many in the media that means propagating fear and myths that serve no one any good.
Did you know there is a data bank that keeps all kinds of statistics on shark attacks dating back to the late 1800’s? Statistics from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) no doubt creates a tidal wave of skepticism for nonbelievers, but the facts don’t lie.
Consider the following. According to one statistic, you have less than one chance in seven million of being attacked by a shark. Another puts it as high as eleven million. Your chances of drowning are about one in three million. Roughly ten people a year die from shark attacks. Fifty people a year in the United States alone die from bee stings.
No one likes to hear that their favorite vacation spot is one of the more popular sites for shark attacks so it’s hard to share this next bit of news. Not considering hot spots around the globe like Australia, South Africa, and Brazil, the epicenters for shark attacks according to the ISAF are California and parts of Florida and South Carolina.
Before throwing in your beach towel and heading to your room, remember a higher number of shark attacks doesn’t mean a high level of threats around the clock. If that were the case, no one would venture into the water. Put another way, you have a far greater chance of getting into a serious automobile accident or plane crash on your way to your favorite resort than you do of being bitten by a shark.
So what is a swimmer to do? First, throw aside the notion that sharks are amassing in huge numbers offshore waiting to devour you. That’s just not happening. Second, accept the fact that the ocean is the home of sharks, whales, tuna, jellyfish and a host of other creatures, scary or not. Finally, follow a few basic guidelines experts from around the globe pretty much agree with.
… Don’t swim near fishing piers. Fishermen and women are throwing all kinds of juicy things into the water to attract some big fish. While these tidbits might not appear on your breakfast table, they may be just the tempting morsel sharks are looking for. For the same reason, it’s a good idea to give fishermen on a beach a wide berth. Sharks get hungry like humans and may accidentally bump into you while going after that sea bass.
… Be alert to schools of fish swimming nearby. Gulls circling in large numbers over the water are often a telltale sign of a school of fish. Sharks with their sense of smell have even less trouble tracking these guys.
… Don’t swim alone. You are more or less painting a bulls eye on your body if you do. This is one instance where it really is better to follow the crowd. If a shark attack is going to happen, you don’t want to be the lone swimmer. Like wolves and other predators, sharks like to single out their victim for easy assessment and attack. Besides when you’re swimming with a crowd, a shark is less likely to confuse your thrashing for a fish or wounded dolphin or turtle.
… Your jewelry may make you look hot to your husband or boyfriend; maybe both, but to a shark you’ve just made yourself an object of curiosity that prompts a closer look. Scientists theorize the shiny reflection reminds the shark of glistening fish scales.
… Timing is everything. Many sharks feed early in the morning or at dusk. When you start splashing around, you’re begging to be on the menu.
… How shall I put this next item delicately? If you’re a woman and you’re menstruating, it might be a good idea to stay on the beach or in the shallower part of the water. The same goes for anyone who has recently scraped their leg or cut their arm. You can’t believe how much of the shark’s brain is devoted to its sense of smell. It’s not a myth: sharks really can smell blood from miles away. That unique smell is like a dinner bell going off.
… Most sharks have great eyesight and home in on their dinner with their eyes. If you’re swimming in murky water, you may not confuse Kevin O’Leary and his gang at the Shark Tank, but hungry sharks are…, well, hungry. That chunk gone from your leg was just a sample to see what he found. Imagine how embarrassed the shark is going to be when he realizes you weren’t a seal or flounder. Do the shark and yourself a favor and avoid the incident altogether
… Taking Rover to the beach is a lot of fun. He probably enjoys it as much as you do. The problem is his splashing and erratic moves make him seem like a wounded animal to a nearby shark. His size also makes him an easy candidate for a shark attack.
Don’t let a fear of sharks keep you from enjoying the water wherever you vacation this summer. Use common sense. Respect all sea life as you would creatures on land. Respect the sea. Remember these basic rules. And finally, don’t forget to have fun. Drop me a line on how great your stay was. Twitter: @BillHegerich Facebook Author Page: Bill Hegerich Sr.