The best way to avoid dangerous shark attacks is to avoid sharks

Kati Gardella, Crier staff

In my last article, I emphasized that preventative measures were the most effective when it comes to avoiding shark attacks.

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has been conducting meetings to further study and develop ways to keep swimmers informed of the levels of shark activity.

What they can’t control, however, is the community reacts to their advice.

Various Cape Cod beaches were closed following Arthur Medici’s death, but this didn’t stop everyone from going into the water. Many have continued their activities of swimming and surfing despite warnings.

Even though summer is winding down, surfing season continues until late fall. It’s true that tourists want to enjoy the water, but the sharks aren’t going anywhere.

Only a few days after Medici’s death, a great white shark was spotted at a beach about 17 miles away from the beach that Medici’s attack occurred. The sighting was reported at 11:30 a.m. and was swimming close to shore.

The brunt of the seal population in Massachusetts is fairly close to the ocean shore, which unfortunately draws in the sharks. A swimmer or surfer wouldn’t even have to be far out to spot a shark. In fact, Medici was only around 90 feet from shore when he was attacked.

If people still insist on swimming in the sharky waters, they can put themselves at less of a risk by avoiding wearing flashy jewelry or anything shiny. They should also stay close to the shore, and in groups.

If a seal is spotted, it’s a good idea to keep a distance of at least a couple hundred feet from it.

The rising amount of seals is also bad news for the fishing industry, as more seals require more fish for nutrition. To reduce the number of sharks, the number of seals would have to be cut down, but essentially no one wants to harm seals, as they’re considered much cuter than sharks.

There are also legal protections for seals against them being harassed or killed. These laws were created in 1972 when seal numbers were at a huge low.

The population conflict calls for the ethical consideration of when animal protection laws are too excessive and must be limited.

Ideally, the seals would be transferred to another area where populations are sparse and become widespread rather than concentrated. It is also not the seal’s fault that they are attracting more of their predators, and it is a natural biological instinct to want to increase their species’ population.

As Greg Skomal of the Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries stated, “There are two things we can’t control: Shark behavior and seal behavior… what does that leave us? We have to modify our behavior.”

Luckily, we can use the powers of intellectual reasoning to avoid being near seals when we encounter one while swimming because as lighting follows thunder, sharks are sure to follow seals.

Once you see a shark nearby, it’s important to assess the danger of the situation. Great white sharks are the most infamous for attacks, as over 300 unprovoked attacks on humans have occurred.

Striped tiger sharks are statistically the next most dangerous, with a little over a hundred attacks, bull sharks with a hundred attacks, and blacktip sharks with 29 attacks.

During an attack, sharks may sneak up from behind, go right ahead and charge, or may circle at first and then attack. It’s important to keep your eyes on the shark and not thrash around. Sudden movements attract attention.

The most vulnerable areas of sharks are the nose, eyes, and gills. Unsurprisingly, it’s not the best idea to go up to a shark and attempt to punch it in the face. In an emergency, jabbing the eyes is the best option.

The ideal surprise shark encounter would include the human just hovering in the water till the shark lost interest and moved on.

Sharks mostly rely on their sense of smell, and they use their olfactory lobes to determine if something smells like prey. If waters are seal-infested, that’s likely what they’ll smell.

Sharks also have powerful hearing and use sound frequencies to detect noises produced by something splashing. They can identify splashing from more than the length of two football fields away.

The sense of sight is weaker, as they can only see about 50 feet ahead. Since their eyes located on opposite sides of their head, they do have a 360-degree field of vision.

Luckily, unlike shark attack movies such as the Jaws series, it’s very unlikely that a shark will go to extreme measures to attack a human, such as biting through the deck of a boat, or jumping up to take a helicopter down.

As Mark Brody in the last Jaws movie explained, “sharks don’t commit a murder. They don’t pick out a person.”

Even with the increased amount of shark sightings which may lead to attacks, in real life, sharks do not take premeditated measures to target humans. Shark attacks on humans are in error in nature.

Unrealistic shark movies do promote the wise advice to stay out of the ocean if the area is considered risky.