Even though you're more likely to die from a lightning strike, alligator attack or on a bicycle than from a shark attack, sharks do sometimes bite humans. According to the International Shark Attack File there were 79 cases of unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2010. Thirty-six of these unprovoked attacks were in U.S. waters, and 13 of these were in Florida.
There are many ways (most of them common-sense) that you can avoid a shark attack. Below is a list of what not to do if you'll be swimming in waters where sharks might be present, and techniques for getting away alive if a shark attack really does happen.
What Not to Do:
- Don't swim alone.
- Don't swim during dark or twilight hours.
- Don't swim with shiny jewelry.
- Don't swim if you have an open wound.
- Don't swim too far offshore.
- Ladies: don't swim if you're menstuating.
- Don't splash excessively or make erratic movements.
- Keep pets out of the water.
- Don't swim in areas where there are sewage (for other obvious reasons!) or pinnipeds that are hauled-out. Both areas can attract sharks.
- Don't swim in areas being used by fishermen, as their bait could attract sharks.
- Don't push your luck - never harass a shark. Get out of the water if one is spotted.
What to Do If You're Attacked:
Let's hope you've followed the advice above and successfully avoided an attack. But what do you do if you suspect a shark's in the area or are being attacked?
- If you feel something brush against you, get out of the water. According to an article from National Geographic, many shark bite victims don't feel any pain. And sharks may strike more than once.
- If you are attacked, the rule described here is "do whatever it takes to get away." Possibilities include yelling underwater, blowing bubbles, and punching the shark's nose, eye or gills and then leaving the area before the shark strikes again.
References and Additional Information:
- Burgess, George H. 2011. ISAF Statistics on Attacking Species of Shark. (Online). FL Museum of Natural History. Accessed January 30, 2012.
- Burgess, George H. 2009. ISAF 2008 Worldwide Shark Attack Summary (Online). FL Museum of Natural History. Accessed February 5, 2010.
- Burgess, George H. 1998. Just for Kids: How to Avoid a Shark Attack Reprinted with permission from The Kids' How to Do (Almost) Everything Guide, Monday Morning Books, Palo Alto, California. Accessed February 5, 2010.
- ISAF. 2009. International Shark Attack File. (Online). FL Museum of Natural History. Accessed February 5, 2010.
- Popular Mechanics. 2009. Survive Anything: How to Escape a Shark Attack. (Online-link no longer active as of 3/31/12) Popular Mechanics. Accessed February 5, 2010.