iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Willy Volk

GET UPDATES FROM Willy Volk
 

How To Avoid A Shark Bite

Posted: 08/14/2012 6:15 pm

West Australia Shark Attack

The chance of your being bitten by a shark is really, really low.

Shark researchers have combed historical records dating all the way to the year 1580, the year Sir Frances Drake completed his second circumnavigation of the globe. Their objective was to sum the number of shark bites mentioned in those records, and to learn if sharks were dangerous to humans.

Based on their research, they've determined that the total number of shark bites worldwide in the last 430-plus years has been fewer than 2500 (or five bites per year). Of those bites, fewer than 500 have been fatal. To put that in perspective, between 1980 and 1995, 1318 deaths in the United States alone were attributed to lightning strikes. In other words, the odds of being bitten by a shark are much lower than being killed by lightning, and I don't know anyone with a fear of thunderstorms.

That said, no one wants to be the "one in a million" person who is bitten by a shark.

I've been a scuba diver for the last quarter century, since I was 13 years old. I'm a certified Rescue Diver with several hundred dives logged on both hemispheres. I've seen sharks on many dives. I've dived with Great whites (admittedly, I was in a cage), and also with Tiger sharks, Reef sharks, Lemon sharks, Nurse sharks, and more. I've never been bitten by a shark. Here are some tips for avoiding a shark bite.

1.) Wear black fins, not brightly colored or clear fins. Many fish are brightly colored. Few fish are black. Don't look like a fish.

2.) Avoid wearing jewelry, especially shiny, or "bangle-y" jewelry in the water. Many fish reflect sunlight and appear "shiny" underwater. I repeat: don't look like a fish.

3.) Avoid cloudy or murky water. Sharks don't have fingers. They only have a mouth. When they're curious about something, they bite it, to see if it may be tasty. If they can't see well, like when they're swimming in cloudy or murky water, their curiosity gets the best of them, and they bite-test you. If they can see you clearly, it's unlikely they'll bite-test you.

4.) Swim in groups. Sharks are lazy. They want to conserve energy. They try to eat fish or seals or things that seem old, or weak, or lag behind. If you're swimming in a group, you don't appear to be weak or falling behind. You seem strong, and maybe you'll put up a fight. Meh... to a shark, you're not even worth a bite-test.

5.) Don't splash a lot. Similar to above, splashing suggests you might be weak or struggling. Sharks are lazy. If they sense weak prey is nearby, they see opportunity.

6.) Avoid swimming at dawn or dusk. This is when sharks are most likely to go looking for meals. Don't be available at meal time.

7.) Don't stand in water filled with fish guts. This should be obvious. If there's bait in the water, it's possible you'll be confused for a shark's preferred meal.

Sharks are vital to the ecosystem. They keep reefs clean and healthy. Be respectful of sharks and get out of their way -- but avoid killing them, because without sharks, our oceans may collapse. And when our oceans collapse, so does our planet.

I love sharks! Sharks are beautiful. Have a look at some of the shark photos I've taken.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Lemon shark breaking the water's surface.

  • Dorsal fin of a Lemon shark. Note the tear in the back.

  • A Lemon shark, reaching for a snack.

  • A Tiger shark.

  • A Caribbean reef shark.

  • Emma, the Tiger shark, in "the cornfields."

  • A Lemon shark showing off his gills.

  • A Tiger shark, and a diver in the background.

  • A Tiger shark, with divers and a dive boat in the background.

  • A Tiger shark, close up.

  • A Caribbean Reef shark swimming over a beautiful piece of brain coral.

  • A Tiger shark.

  • A Caribbean Reef shark swimming over the coral bed.

  • A Tiger shark in "the cornfields."

  • A Tiger shark.

  • Lemon sharks breaking the water's surface.

  • Lemon shark breaking the water's surface.

  • A Tiger shark, and a diver in the background.

  • A Lemon shark, trying to bite the flash on an underwater camera.

  • Lemon shark breaking the water's surface.

  • Lemon shark breaking the water's surface.

  • A Tiger shark, a Lemon shark, and a diver, with the dive boat in the background.

  • Lemon shark breaking the water's surface.

  • A Lemon shark with a fish hook caught in his mouth.

  • Close-up of a Lemon shark.

  • A Tiger shark, swimming through "the cornfields."

 

Follow Willy Volk on Twitter: www.twitter.com/WillyVolk

FOLLOW GREEN