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Shark Science: Why Sharks Attack and 7 Ways to Avoid Them

Whether it’s multiple attacks in North Carolina, three-time world champion surfer Mick Fanning punching a shark on the back, or that perfectly cheesy line from Shaknado 3 (Nobody attacks my house, this time it’s personal), sharks stand tall as the natural kings of the sea.

But what are the actual chances of a shark attack? According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, the odds of a shark attacking an ocean swimmer are one in 11.5 million. While shark attacks are extremely rare, the museum published a shark file tracking the occurrence of shark attacks across the globe.

This file found that the number of shark attacks has increased every decade since 1900. But before you go out in the streets crying shark (see what I did there), let’s examine the reasons behind the increased numbers.

The increase in the number of reported shark attacks does not necessarily mean more shark attacks occur every year. Possible explanations include better reporting, better technology, and a better economy. Now, I know what you’re thinking. A better economy…is this guy completely insane?

No I am not. Thanks for the concern (not that I know of at least). The more people earn, the more likely they are to vacation at the beach. The more crowds flock to the beach and spend time in the water, the higher the chance of an actual shark attack. But statistics only help so much. Here are 7 ways to avoid a shark attack in the first place.

1. Be the shark!

If you were actually a shark you wouldn’t have a problem, and you probably wouldn’t be reading this amazing article in the first place. But understanding why sharks attack gives the swimmer a huge advantage. Often sharks simply approach people out of curiosity. National Geographic author Brian Howard writes that sharks confuse people for prey due to “poor visibility.” But the majority of shark attacks come when spear fishers provoke the shark—so don’t go around poking the bear…or should I say shark.

2. Use physical forces

If a shark attacks you bonk it on the nose, the back, or the gills. “Sharks respect size and power,” reports Florida Museum of Natural History.

Surfer Mick Fanning escaped a shark encounter off the coast of South Africa by using his fist to pound the shark’s back. The shark then released Mick’s leg, and he miraculously escaped without any harm. “To walk away from that, I’m just so stoked,” Mick told ESPN. “To walk away from a shark attack with not a scratch on you. It’s a miracle,” Mick explains to TIME magazine a week after the accident.

There is only one thing #MickFanning says to sharks:

3. Avoid shark nursery grounds

This one sounds obvious, but public beaches at times allow swimmers to jump into ocean waters without any warning of sharks in the area. Something as simple as signs warning beach users of possible shark encounters and a newsletter to the local residents could help to save lives. Informing people about the risk is one thing, but blowing that risk out of proportion is quite another. Since the year 2000 there have been 630 shark attacks reported in the U.S. Out of those 630 attacks, only 15 have been fatal. We need to give people warning, but at the same time allow them to keep their ability to decide how and when to enter the ocean on their own.

4. Choose to swim in good weather instead of during or after a storm

Choppy ocean water churns up bait fish in in shallow water like butter mixed with brown sugar. Sharks come closer to shore for an easy meal, and ocean swimmers are at a higher risk of a shark attack.

5. Swim in a group

This one sounds super cheesy, but the buddy system saves lives. Bringing a friend or two ensures that in the event of an attack, one person remains healthy enough to swim for help. Additionally, as long as you swim faster than the friend you bring, you will always survive an attack. Just kidding about this one.

6. Time of day

Remember this—sharks are more active at dawn and dusk. While a nice morning swim is usually harmless, fish keep a different schedule than our own. Swimming in the ocean means leaving our home for theirs. 

7. Avoid excessive splashing, shiny objects, and strong smells

Playing shark lures real sharks to the vicinity. Sharks tend to be more curious than cautious. A large splash on the ocean surface brings sharks to the area. Shiny objects such as jewelry, gold chains, and watches peek a shark’s interest levels. Smells such as blood from an open wound also attract a shark.

This is just a small list of precautions swimmer can take to avoid a confrontation with a shark. If you have any other shark tips, feel free to post them in the comments below.

Labels: Tips

How Should We Respond When Humans and Sharks Collide?
Mick Fanning Shark Attack: internet adds punchy humor to surfer's tale
The International Shark File
See Where Most Shark Attacks Happen in the U.S.
Shark Attack Surfer Mick Fanning Heads Back to the Waves
‘Sharknado 3’ Quotes So Cheesy They’re Perfect
Two Kids Lose Arms in Separate North Carolina Shark Attacks
What You Should Know About Shark Attacks After Recent Bites

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