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21 June 2021
Whenever you think of scheduling a fishing trip, does it ever cross your mind that a shark attack could occur at any moment? Do you ever get that nerve-wracking feeling at the back of your mind about how notorious these animals could be? Suddenly, you see some news about shark attacks that instills thoughts such as, “What if I get bitten next?” Well, here’s some good news; you don’t need to worry as much about getting bitten by a shark on your next trip to the beach because the probability of being attacked and killed by a shark is only one in 3.75 million. You could worry more about dying from excessive cold, a firework accident, or a lightning strike because the chances of experiencing these are more likely as opposed to getting up close and personal with a shark.
Not many people are aware that exploratory bites from sharks are more common than aggressive shark attacks where the creature sees human beings as their prey. To explain this in numbers, about 80-90% of what is referred to as an “aggressive shark attack,” actually stems from exploratory bites. The US is known for having the most records of shark attacks in the world; most of the attacks had occurred in Florida. In 2017 alone, the US was recorded to have the most shark attacks but saw zero fatalities.
Now, what could be the difference between exploratory bites and actual shark attacks? The thing is, shark attacks occur when a shark feels that you could be dangerous to them. They start to get aggressive once they think that you are interfering with their habitat. On the other hand, exploratory bites from sharks stem from a shark’s mere curiosity of what kind of object or person is afloat in their turf. It is important to know the difference between these attacks in order to know how to deal with the situation at hand.
A popular mistake that people usually make on their beach and fishing trips would be to step in the water at dusk, twilight, and dawn. When visibility conditions in the water are deemed to be unclear, or when the water in the area seems to be murky, this is the time that sharks are most active. The murky, unclear water does not necessarily make them aggressive. Instead, it gives them a harder time to see properly, which is practically not anyone or anything’s favorite thing in the world. As human beings, we have what we call our prescriptive lenses or glasses to keep us seeing clearly through night and day. Underwater, we have goggles to protect our eyes when we swim; but imagine being underwater all the time with no protective gear nor prescription lenses; that is exactly how we can empathize with sharks swimming in murky waters. Because of how blurry the water could get for sharks, they tend to come closer to objects in order to see them better. In addition, their estimation of distance is glitched, which makes them end up swimming towards an object or person closer than they would like to; others would immediately mark this move as aggression.
To avoid sharks, people should also understand that they have to make a conscious effort to avoid what these animals are attracted to or lured by. Fish are sharks’ most preferred food. We can infer that an abundance of fish would mean an abundance in sharks as well. So, if you see a beautiful school of fish that encourages you to come close, don’t fall for the trap! Although sharks would most likely cause no harm until provoked or unless their curiosity is sparked, it would be best to remain on the safer side of things at all times. It is best to note that avoiding great white sharks out of the many species would be advantageous on your end since they are usually the species known to attack. On the contrary, shark species that are recorded to be friendlier are whale sharks, nurse sharks, basking sharks, leopard sharks, and angel sharks.
If a shark is nearby but has not aggressively approached you and deemed you as its prey, make sure to stay in a vertical position, stop moving, and maintain eye contact with the sea creature. Assuming a vertical position rather than a horizontal one has been proven to keep sharks at a greater distance and decrease the chances of the shark approaching.
But then, what if you suddenly do get up close and personal with a shark in their territory? The first thing to keep in mind is that sharks have sensitive noses. You can use this to your advantage if you feel like a shark is about to approach you. Hitting its nose with your fist could cause the shark to go away instead of continuing to come close. If not, doing this strategy could at least buy you some time to steer away from its attention and out of the water, too. If you don’t see the shark approaching on time and it already holds you locked in its jaw, don’t lose hope because you can still try your best to get away. Targeting a shark’s eyes and gill slits could help you in your dilemma; make the effort to stick your fingers in their eyes or gills; maybe even claw at them. It is worth remembering this tip so that you don’t panic relentlessly once you encounter such a problem. Studies show that people who have had a shark encounter and who also tried this method successfully got the shark to open its mouth wide enough for them to escape.
If it comes to a point where you try your hardest to avoid these encounters but still end up in an inevitable position, it is good to establish a presence of mind and proactiveness in order to get through this scary incident. Almost everyone has a soft spot for the beach; its natural beauty and wonders attract people and animals alike. Even though shark attacks are not as prevalent as our minds deceive us to believe, it would be smart to keep some tactics at the back of your pocket for emergencies; especially for those who are drawn to such waters as anglers and surfers.