Summer is winding down in the Northern Hemisphere, but just beginning to gear up in the Southern. If you’re one of the millions of people who will flock to a beach somewhere in the world this year, you probably remember a few essential things:
- Use plenty of sunscreen
- Stay hydrated
- Watch out for the riptide
- Keep an eye out for sharks
Yes, the beach is synonymous for sharks and even though they are fascinating and amazing creatures, no one really wants to get that close when they’re just here for the surf and sand. The last thing you want to run into is a shark who is looking for something to eat. Truthfully, shark attacks around the world are rare; less than 100 per year which is a small amount when you consider the millions of people who swim, dive, fish, and surf around the globe and all of the miles of beaches in which they do it.
Where Sharks Live
If you wonder just where sharks live, the answer is: everywhere. They are spread all over the globe, in fresh water and salt water, cold water and warm water. There are many species of sharks and some live in ocean depths that are rarely seen by human eyes while others live and feed in shallow waters. When it comes to attacks that have happened on humans, the majority have happened in shallow waters by the more aggressive species of sharks who are looking for their dinner; thus they tend to run into swimmers more often. When swimming in the shallows, there are some things that you can do to lessen your chances of an approach, such as:
- Swim at Midday. Sharks feed at dusk and at dawn, so the middle of the day is not often a time when they will be cruising for food. Plus, visibility is poor in the early morning and at sunset, which makes it easier for a shark to mistake you for a fish.
- Ditch the Fashion. Sharks can be attracted to sparkly jewelry, brightly colored swimsuits, or even the reflective suits that look like they have scales. Wearing any of these can be confusing to a shark and he might mistake you for a tasty, brightly-colored fish. It’s safer to leave the fashion for the runway unless you plan to stay on the beach blanket.
- Watch for Wounds. As we know you’ve heard a million times, many animals can easily smell (and are attracted to) blood; sea creatures are no exception. If you have an open wound, it could draw the shark closer to the shoreline, thinking that there is a dead fish somewhere waiting to be gobbled up. Be sure to bandage your cut well with waterproof tape to keep it protected.
- Buddies are Better. It’s best not to swim alone when you’re at the beach, a lake, or even in a river. Not only is it safer when it comes to avoiding drowning incidents, swimming with a buddy is in your best interest if a chance encounter with a shark comes your way.
Who You Might See
Knowing where sharks live and what types of sharks you might encounter in the shallows can help you determine if what you see is an aggressor. For example, there are 4 aggressors to keep an eye on if you plan on swimming safely this summer.
- Blacktip Reef Shark. Though there have been no known fatal attacks on humans without being provoked, the Blacktip is one to look out for as they are very common to the shallow water and get startled easily. You can find them near the coasts in the Indian Ocean and the eastern Pacific. They have a pointed snout and prominent black tips on its dorsal fins. A very beautiful shark, indeed, it is one of the most common watched by divers.
- Hammerhead. The Hammerhead is one of the most startling and stunning looking of all the sharks. With their broad heads and eye on either side, you’ll know one when you see one. There are actually 9 species of Hammerhead, and you can find them in every ocean and coat around the world. They spend so much time in the shallow water that they are actually the only shark that can get a tan! Though attacks on humans are very rare, they have happened.
- Tiger Shark. These swimmers prefer the warm waters of any coast that isn’t too cold. They live in the deeper water, but often frequent the shallows for prey. They are not very friendly or social fish and have been known to attack even other sharks. They are rather aggressive hunters and they account for about 4 attacks per year, though most are not fatal. They are blue to light green and have a white or yellow belly with stripes that fade as they age. Surfer Bethany Hamilton lost her arm to a Tiger shark in 2003, and a movie was made to document her story.
- Bull Shark. This flat snouted, large-and-in-charge shark is one of the top 3 likely sharks to attack a human un-provoked. They happen to spend time in areas where humans do, such as the Ganges River. Yes, they can switch from salt water to fresh water easily and thus they can be found on the coast or in lakes and rivers all over the globe. They will eat just about anything that crosses their path, so be wary of this guy.
You will also find other non-threatening sharks in the shallows, such as Nurse and Caribbean Reef sharks, which are a pure joy to watch and even swim with. For the most part, as long as you do your best to avoid sharks, even the aggressive ones will usually avoid you.