The last thing anybody wants to hear when they're swimming in the ocean is "SHAAAARK!" In just the past few weeks, multiple shark attacks have been confirmed along the East Coast, the last two off Long Island, New York. A 12 year old girl and 13 year old boy were bitten just a few miles and hours apart. Others have had dangerous encounters with multiple attacks in Florida, and others in Georgia and South Carolina. Others have been bitten in Hawaii and California, this year.
While a shark attack CAN obviously end very badly, fatal attacks in the U.S. ARE rare, but of course, avoiding any attack at all is obviously the best plan! So what can you do to protect yourself? Well first, stay out of the water around dawn & dusk and after dark! These are the times when many shark species come closer to shore to feed. And when you get in the water, a general safety tip is to never swim alone and this will help you avoid shark attacks, too - sharks typically attack individuals, so there's safety in numbers!
What you wear, or don't wear can keep you safer too. Bathing suits with sharply contrasting shapes and lines can be attractive to sharks and shiny jewelry, glinting in the sunlight, can look just like fish scales to a shark. So leave your bling on the beach when you head into the surf.
And while you should worry about sharks incredible ability to smell blood in the water if you have an active wound, a bigger threat from doing that is bacteria in the water that could cause a major infection. Many of us with dogs love to bring them into the water with us, too, but that's not a good idea, either. Their erratic splashing and movements can fool a shark into thinking they're struggling prey.
If you see a shark in the water at a distance, get out of the water as quickly, but as quietly as possible - again splashing attracts sharks! But in the unlikely event that you ARE actually attacked by a shark, DON'T PLAY DEAD! Fight with all your might, using anything you have with you as a weapon. Use your hands if you must, to claw at its eyes and gills and punch it's nose as hard as you can. Sharks don't like to fight for their dinner!
Just like with all outdoor activities we engage in, there are often hazards, but in the ocean, we're much more likely to get into trouble because of rip currents rather than sharks, but knowing how to avoid the oceans' apex predators is a GOOD thing!
Keeping a vigilant eye out for Jaws, for WeatherNation - John Van Pelt