Avoiding Shark Attacks

Ken Moran accepts no responsibility for the safety of anyone employing any advice from this page.
There is no implication of safety or offering of liability by the author or this site. 
The only absolute safety is either not swimming or not swimming with sharks.  Enter the water at your own risk

If you have more questions about this species or any other species of shark, ask
the Shark Wrangler!

He has handled live sharks of every species on this site except blues and makos.
Please, read this page first to make certain your question is not already answered.

SHARK ATTACKS ARE ON THE RISE! Take Care in the Ocean!!!

I am posting this warning as an addition to this page given the clear rise in frequency of attacks on the East Coast of America.  Please, take my warnings seriously and use caution in your aquatic activities in the ocean.  As large coastal species, such as the Sandbar Shark, are overprotected and their population explodes, the pressure on the available food supply has increased notably.  This competition for food is going to force large sharks to look to new prey in order to survive.
Be careful!   Posted November 2008

While there are no assurances of absolute safety in the ocean, statistical safety is always on your side.  Given the number of swimmers, surfers, floaters, skiers, and other bathers in the oceans of the world at any given time compared to the actual number of shark attacks in those same waters, there is relatively little risk of shark attack in being in the waters of our oceans.  I know that this is little comfort to those of you that are afraid of sharks or the ocean.  I hope that fear will not stop you from enjoying our beaches.

I, personally, am more concerned of a shark bite while floating in the open sea than at a beach.  That is because sharks have grown more accustomed to seeing us in the break zone on a beach than out in the open waters.  It is also because many larger shark species tend to attack at the surface and from below (a case in point, white sharks).  Therefore, I limit my float time at the surface when I dive offshore.  I also have noted that while diving sharks seem to regard me as a dangerous part of their underwater home.  They have been more bold in bumping or rubbing me at the surface than when I was eye to eye with them.  Nevertheless, I DO NOT RECOMMEND ANYONE DIVE WITH SHARKS outside the safety of a shark cage.  As was seen on a Discovery Channel program, sharks do reserve the right to bite without provocation.

Though the entire question of swimmer safety and causes of shark attacks open a veritable panacea of complex variables and issues of theory and debate, I will only focus on the "old standby" approach to water safety.  I will give a little insight into shark behavior and the variables surrounding the probability of an attack.  However, I will try and keep it short and sweet.  I will do this with lists for your understanding and ease of reading.  Remember, sharks will bite regardless of your standing on the surface, so no matter if you have a PHD in Physics or a business administration degree.  Even if you are Mr. Universe you are not above being bitten.

Variables that increase the probability of SHARK PRESENCE

All these types of variables increase the chance that a shark might be in the area.  They do not necessarily indicate the chance of an attack.  There are, however, variables that increase risk of attack and variables that account for the likelihood of attack.  These are due in part to learning principles common to all animals and the psychology of sharks.  Yes, I just said there is shark psychology.  People often fail to understand that much of what we know about human psychology comes from our study of animal psychology.  So, let's look at a few variables that increase the chance of attack when there are sharks in the water.

Variables that increase the chance of shark attack

Then there are the variables that account for shark attacks

These types of things actually account for the reason that a person was attacked by a shark.  I use the word "attacked" loosely as most bites are investigative or attempts to feed.  There are only a few cases of actual attacks.  I consider an attack to have occurred when someone willfully interacts or bothers a shark and the shark in response tries to injure or kill that person.  Anything else qualifies as a bite (though all of you that have been bitten would say it was an attack). 

Sharks lack arms and legs so when they nip something in the water to find out what it is, the bite seems harsh to us, but, like the nip of a dog or cat to the shark.  This is an investigative bite.  A feeding bite is usually different.  It is a forceful, seemingly violent bite designed to kill or injure the target.  Quite a few species of shark like to bleed prey to death to conserve their strength and avoid injury.

In order to avoid a feeding bite (or attack), there are some steadfast and unchanging rules that I live by when in the water.

The RULES to avoid feeding attacks

  1. Never swim alone in the ocean.

  2. Never swim at night in the ocean.

  3. Avoid swimming outside the surf zone.

  4. Avoid surfing or swimming during known migrations of sharks near shore (This has changed some since the migratory pattern of large hammerheads of the Carolinas has shifted nearly eliminating our observance of the old large near-shore migration of large hammerheads).

  5. Never keep bait or speared fish on your person while spear fishing or diving.  (It is best to remove fish from the water immediately.)

  6. Do not enter the water bleeding or injured where sharks may be present.

  7. Do not float at the surface in open water or in the gulf stream where surface feeding can be common.

  8. Exit the water when massive migrations of bait fish and squid move through your break.

  9. If you see a shark feeding, keep calm and move deliberately if you have to move.

  10. Never swim or surf piers or other fishing obstructions.  These belong to the sharks.

  11. RESPECT ALL SHARKS.  The ocean is our vacation spot, but, it is their home!

If you follow guidelines like the rules I live by, you decrease your chances of being bitten by a shark.  I make no promises as to your safety.  You may never be bitten by a shark, but, even bream in a river can stop your heart when they nip you.  Sharks are the least of our worries in the water.  Jellyfish, barracudas, sharp rocks, broken glass, and many other minor hazards account for the usual injuries to bathers.  Don't forget the worst danger to beach goers, sunburn.  So, don't focus so much on sharks that you forget the other things that can hurt you.  When you ride a motorcycle you should wear a helmet because you could get hurt.  The same applies to any recreational activity.  Prepare ahead of time and avoid any unnecessary risk to your safety whenever you do anything in the water or on land.

Ken Moran
Shark Wrangler

If you have more questions about this species or any other species of shark, ask the Shark Wrangler!
He has handled live sharks of every species on this site except blues and makos.


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