This week will be the 31st season of Shark Week, one of the most popular programs on the Discovery Channel. Meanwhile, National Geographic and its sister channel Nat Geo Wild have expanded SharkFest from two weeks to three weeks for this year.
Needless to say, there have been many shark attacks on humans over the years, especially since they are among the top predators in the oceans. The reasons are mainly due to curiosity, blood in the water, or the shark mistaking a human for its usual prey (e.g. a human on a surfboard being mistaken for a seal or the amount of splashing which can attract a shark’s attention). Sometimes, an attack is provoked, e.g. a human touching a shark.
There are over 400 species of sharks, including the great white shark, tiger shark, bull shark, hammerhead shark, oceanic whitetip, mako shark, thresher shark, and the whale shark. Out of these, the great white shark, tiger shark, and bull shark are said to be responsible for the most attacks on humans. Interestingly, the whale shark (which is the largest species of shark on Earth) is not considered to be dangerous to humans, since it feeds on plankton and small fish.
There have been many ways devised to prevent such attacks. They consist of the following:
- Shark nets- walls of nets placed in certain areas for the purpose of entangling sharks. Such a contraption can, in theory, prevent attacks by trapping sharks (and hence killing them). However, they are said to result in the deaths of other animals that are unable to free themselves.
- Shark barriers- seafloor to surface barriers separating people from sharks.
- Drum lines- aquatic traps that lure and capture sharks by means of baited hooks.
- Shark shields- electronic devices that create electromagnetic fields which in turn deter sharks. Despite their effectiveness, they do not work in all situations.
Other methods used to reduce shark attacks include moving sharks to other areas, tagging and tracking sharks, spotting sharks, shark sonar, shark repellants, and even using dolphins to protect swimmers.
But the best way to avoid a shark attack is to abide by these guidelines:
- Always swim in a group.
- Don’t swim too far from the shore.
- Don’t go swimming at night, dawn, or dusk.
- Don’t go swimming with an open wound.
- Avoid wearing shiny jewelry, brightly colored clothing, or having an uneven tan when you go swimming.
- Avoid swimming in areas with sewage or that are being fished/baited.
- Don’t enter the water if sharks are present, and don’t touch a shark if you see one.
- Avoid excessive splashing.
- Take caution if you approach a sandbar or a steep drop-off when swimming.
So enjoy Shark Week and SharkFest.