Nature lives by a series of checks and balances a significant part of this process is apex predators. Lions, Tigers, Bears and of course Sharks are just few of the Apex Predators in nature. The vast majority of apex predators have their favorite diets, just like humans they have a favorite meal. Unfortunately like humans they may intentionally or unintentionally consume or taste items that are not in their favorite food list.
Increases in global populations and water related activities sharks are forced into close contact situations with humans. The results of these contacts can have devastating effects to the person or the shark population in the area. It is important to understand that there are numerous actions a person can take to avoid or minimize those encounters that result in attacks.
There are basically two types of shark attacks, provoked and unprovoked. We’ll take a closer look at these methods to help us understand how and when attacks can occur.
- Provoked attacks are caused by an act or actions of a person that causes the shark to attack.
- Unhooking a captured shark.
- Detangling a shark from a net.
- Touching sharks while diving or snorkeling.
- Tagging and research of sharks.
- Feeding sharks for the purpose of entertainment or photography.
- Unprovoked attacks are caused by an act or actions of a shark that results in an attack.
- Sneak Attacks:
- Scientists have determined that many shark species eyes have evolved to see up towards the surface of the water from depth. Sneak Attacks occur in when sufficient depth allows the shark to surge towards the surface undetected by its prey resulting in a massive bite. Unfortunately for humans this is one of the worst types of attacks that can be perpetrated, usually resulting in serious injury or death.
- Feeding Frenzy Attacks:
- Feeding Frenzy Attacks occur when the human either intentionally or unintentionally enters an area where several sharks are currently feeding. The group works themselves into a frenzy and unintentional bites occur. These bites are generally serious, but seldom result in death.
- Bump-and-Bite Attacks:
- These types of attacks occur when the shark bumps into you and bites. The shark may circle you prior to the attack or during repeated attacks and the results are serious bites or even death.
- Hit-and-Run Attacks:
- Near shore, beaches, surf zones, currents and murky water are the areas where Hit-and-Run attacks generally happen. It is in these locations where sharks in pursuit of their natural prey may mistake the movement of humans as prey. Typically the shark the shark makes a single bite, determines that you are not prey and departs the area. In most cases injuries occur to the legs, feet or hands of the victim and rarely result in death.
Preventing a Shark Attack
Sharks can be dangerous and as an apex predator your failure to provide them the proper respect can have devastating results. Keep in mind that shark attacks can and do happen, but the odds of being a victim are actually quite small. Still there are certain steps scuba divers can take to minimize the possibilities of an attack. while more attacks happen to, swimmers, snorkelers and surfers than divers it is important to understand that divers can at times appear as all of those mentioned above.
Methods to minimize shark attacks:
- Avoid diving in waters that are known to have significant shark populations.
- Sharks are more active at dusk, dawn and night so if possible plan your dives several hours after sunrise and end them several hours, before sunset.
- Never dive alone! Sharks tend to avoid groups of divers perceiving them as a threat, where a lone diver may not be considered formidable in the eyes of a shark.
- Don’t dive in polluted, murky waters. Not only is it difficult for you to identify a potential threat, but it is equally as difficult for the shark to distinguish you from their prey.
- Avoid diving near sandbars and drop offs as these areas contain lots of fish and are known haunts for sharks.
- Sharks can sense minute traces of blood in the water and divers should avoid diving if they have an open wound.
- Most fish species are brightly colored or shimmery in the water, so avoid wearing jewelry that shines, brightly colored clothes or chrome regulators.
- Avoid swimming with or near dolphins as both dolphins and sharks often pursue the same food sources.
- When snorkeling out to the dive site you should attempt to be as streamlined as possible. Excessive splashing and erratic movements can attract a curious shark to come in for a closer look.
- Avoid diving near boats that are fishing. Often time anglers will chum the water to bring fish closer to the boat. The frantic movements of the fish they catch will eventually drawn in the sharks that are looking for an easy meal.
- Avoid diving in channels, passes or river mouths as these areas are known to be favorite habitats of sharks.
- Seals and otters are beautiful creatures and a favorite snack for large sharks. Decline the temptation to dive with these creatures and avoid diving areas where large populations exist.
- Minimize your time on the surface, this is perhaps the most prominent area where attacks occur.
Safety When Diving With Sharks:
In the event you are going to dive in areas where sharks are prevalent there are things you can do to minimize the threat of an attack. There are over 300 species of sharks with only a handful considered to be dangerous to humans. These sharks include the Great Whites, Tiger, Bull, Oceanic white-tip, Hammerheads, Shortfin Mako and Bronze Whaler sharks. Since sharks are widely distributed in coastal waters throughout the world it is imperative you know, which species inhabit the area you intend to dive.
How to Minimize Attacks when Diving with Sharks:
- Utilize a shark cage where plausible or applicable. Most shark cages are designed to withstand the abuse that can be perpetrated by a large shark and will protect the occupants inside.
- Remain alert when diving in areas where sharks may be present. Should a shark be spotted it is important to be aware of where the shark is at all times and to avoid interactions with the animal.
- Understand basic shark behaviors and be ready to respond when aggressive actions are detected. Calm sharks, which pose little threat to divers will typically swim slowly and smoothly even though curiosity may bring them into close proximity with the diver. Sign of aggression in sharks may include any or all of the following:
- Sharks swimming quickly or erratically.
- The sharks pectoral fins are pointing down, its back is arched or the head is pointed upwards.
- Shark makes sudden movements.
- Zigzagging or charging.
- Wear a dull colored wetsuit without contrasting colors.
- Avoid wearing sparkling or reflective jewelry as they can resemble fish’s scales.
- At least one person in the group should carry a Hawaiian sling or spear-gun.
- Never dive alone in known shark territory. Sharks are more hesitant to approach a group of divers than a lone individual.
- If a shark is seen, do not feed or harass the animal. At least 50% of shark attacks are provoked attacks initiated by the human.
- Avoid sudden or erratic movements when sharks are present.
- Should you have an open wound refrain from the dive, until it no longer produces blood.
- Stay hyper alert for at least 5 minutes after a shark departs as it may return from a different direction.
- Do not under any circumstances attempt to touch the shark. It is not safe to touch any part of a shark, fins and tail included.
Should you feel threatened by the presence of a shark:
- Remain calm and control your breathing.
- Calmly position yourself closer to your dive buddy or group.
- Maintain a vertical profile facing the shark at all times.
- Keep direct eye contact with the animal.
- Slowly move away from the shark, do not attempt to scare or agitate the animal.
- If there is structure nearby such as, large rocks, reefs, wrecks or debris be prepared to descend and take cover. You should place your back against the structure while keeping your front towards the shark. If no structure is available you should position yourself back to back with another diver.
- Take advantage of your nearest exit. This may be a reef flat, land or dive boat. If you have to ascend to a dive boat, try and position yourself to reach the surface as close to the boat as possible.
- If you were spear fishing it is probable that the shark is more interested in your catch than you. No fish is worth the injury you could sustain in an attack. While the shark is busy consuming your catch it could be a perfect opportunity for you to exit the water safely.
- In the event a shark becomes overly aggressive, be prepared to take immediate action. Poke the shark in the nose with your Hawaiian sling or spear-gun and the shark should retreat. Once the shark has retreated to a safe distance calmly exit the water as fast as possible. Be prepared for repeat attacks it is common for an extremely aggressive shark to attempt multiple attacks. Plan your escape and implement it as soon as possible! Keep in mind that the effectiveness of the first nose poke with decrease with each additional poke eventually having little effect on the shark.
- Should the shark attack actually be successful, be aggressive. Claw at the eyes, gills, stab or pound the shark, until it releases. Once you are free from its grasp get to safety as fast as possible and seek medical treatment.