Reminder for a tourist from an unplanned encounter with a shark

My name is Nikita Kornilov, I am an ichthyologist, master of biology, a diver specializing in sharks. For a long time he worked in the aquariums of Moscow with different types of sharks. And now I have moved to the beautiful island of Fuvahmulah and started working with tiger sharks in open water. Very often I receive questions about how to protect yourself from shark attacks while on a tourist trip. Together with professional sharkdivers Petr and Irina Britanov, we decided to speculate a bit on this topic. And based on their practical experience and my knowledge, analysis of international articles and various sources on the topic of sharks, we made this article.

First of all, we recommend that you simply use a search engine in advance, like Google, and study the place of your future trip in more detail for the possibility of meeting with sharks, are they there at all, and if so, which ones ?! You can find out about the places where collisions between people and sharks most often occur by typing international shark attack file into the search box and opening the very first link. There you will find all the latest information about such cases over the past years: statistics, maps of where there were emergencies, what kind of sharks were they, provoked attacks or not, and much more. But keep in mind that all information is in English. Study the resting place for dangerous fauna in advance!

The ocean and seas are their territory, they can sail to one place or another, both temporarily and on a permanent basis. There are beaches where sharks live permanently, but rarely encounter people due to the safety rules that are prescribed there.

Open water is not our home. We come there to visit and we just need to have the appropriate training for this and follow the rules. For example, do not swim in the evening, at night and early in the morning in places where there are sharks. Because at this time, many species of sharks are hunting, they can confuse a person swimming at such a time with prey, and simply crash into him in a fit of chasing some fish. Or such an example, not uncommon in Australia, where public beaches are sometimes filled very tightly and there are also nets. Some couples or just groups of people decide to move to a more secluded place where there are no people at all or not close to civilization, and besides, there may not be rescuers with access to an ambulance. In such places, animals, a priori, do not shy away from people, and especially sharks, who have not previously met a person. As a result, a collision with a shark may occur, and there may simply be no one to provide first aid or help. And some people even go swimming and looking for sharks themselves, having no experience or basic knowledge about these animals.

If you still decide to see these graceful creatures in their natural environment, then be sure to take diving / freediving courses and dive with professionals.

For people who do not have special skills for this, it is recommended to swim only from beaches with sand / pebbles / pebbles and in no case swim behind the buoys, where propellers of motor boats and other swimming facilities are much more dangerous. And most importantly, contact reputable diving clubs that specialize in this kind of diving and encounters with these animals. And listen carefully to the briefing, and follow the requirements of diving instructors and guides! If they said not to do something, this does not mean that this is a frivolous rule, it means that it is necessary! Sharks are not dogs, not cats, and they have their own rules, behavior patterns, hierarchy, reactions to certain actions, even warnings that you are not familiar with, unlike guides. You should never underestimate them and even more so consider that they are just primitive fish. Yes, these are fish, but the highest predators in the ocean, and they are stronger than you, faster, but they are not machines, not robots strictly obeying some kind of program, which people far from biology call instinct. They constantly analyze the situation around and, based on it, make one or another decision, swim there, look around there, and then study the smell here. The guides see this perfectly, Nikita, as a person who worked with a variety of animals, that when you work with them for a long time, you perfectly recognize their character, possible behaviors for a particular stimulus, action, body movement, look, etc.

It is worth adding that in some countries where there are a lot of sharks, there are even signs warning about the risk of a possible meeting and collision with them, such as in the USA, California and Australia. Moreover, these signs even write “Swim at your own risk \ enter at water own risk”, but local surfers and bathers continue to swim. Do not ignore these signs.

Due to the impossibility of closing hotels with pontoon beaches, you should not initially choose such hotels, and if you have chosen, in no case should you climb into the water from the pontoons. You can spend time in the pool, get to the beaches with a shallow entrance to the water, go on yacht excursions to shallow reefs.

On yacht excursions, swim only on reefs, the depth of which does not exceed 15 meters. And it is very worthwhile not to feed sharks from board such yachts off the coast, because in this way potentially dangerous species of sharks have been attracted to the resting places of bathers, with which you need to know how to behave.

Use a mask or swimming goggles and fins. So you can simply see underwater beauty better and, in turn, see the same shark and its reaction to you in order to react accordingly.

Do not swim near fishing boats and stay away from any type of fishing while in the water. Sharks are attracted to fish in stress, and even more so with a wounded hook! And this is not a rare factor that I never mention in the news when there is another news about the “man-eating shark attack”. So always divide media reports by two! It is also worth staying away from places where there may be places for spearfishing. And, in turn, underwater hunters should be aware of the risk of meeting with a shark to tie their prey not to a belt, as many do, but to put it in a separate bag, at the end of the rope that stretches for the hunter, because such a trophy can attract a shark very easily. This is especially true when diving with large sharks, like the same tiger sharks that we work with on the island.

Open water exists for professionals and amateurs alike, whether it be diving, freediving or even swimming. Professionals always have calm breathing and an even pulse, calm movements on and under water, they know all the risks and algorithms of actions in unforeseen situations. In this way, you demonstrate and demonstrate yourself, not as a wounded animal or prey, but as a large creature that simply is in the same environment with a shark and monitors its actions, but you are not a rival for prey or territory, because sharks do not consider you to be a threat, nor for a prey object.

The holidaymakers, on the other hand, splash in the water, creating vibrations of the wounded fish, which attracts the attention of sharks. Splashes and screams near the surface, this is a typical sign of an injured or sick fish or a marine mammal rising for a portion of air. Sharks are naturally attracted to this, and then everything depends strictly on the personal experience of the fish. Recent studies show that experienced and adult sharks who have met people more than once do not react to them, but younger, inexperienced animals or simply those that have not previously met a person can behave much more arrogantly. They can go for the so-called trial bite. Many sharks are curious creatures in their own right and bite is the only way for them to get to know the world and the creatures around them, and how to interact with them. But one thing, it will be a bite of some small reef shark, and quite another even a young 3.5 meter tiger shark. In addition, any panicking screaming creature will arouse the interest of any predator. And when you behave calmly, make eye contact with the animal, you make it clear that you are not afraid, you are ready for defense. Even if this is not the case, the shark does not know about it) And he already sees in you someone who can hit back, and this is a risk to her own health, which any living creature strives to preserve. Therefore, when meeting with a shark, look at it clearly, do not panic, do not hit the water with your hands, and just follow it, swimming towards the shore, boat or your comrades. By the way, about comrades, almost all sharks hunt lonely and stray creatures, these are solitary hunters. When swimming in a group, you appear to be a large flock, like dolphins protecting each other and their young, a shark would not take that risk of being attacked by creatures the size of it or even half of its body.

Sheep and so on, if they are a factor, then only indirectly. In the sense that any case of a collision between people and sharks, resulting in injuries from the latter, is a consequence of more than one reason. It's always a hodgepodge of factors that have led to this, besides some rams that have been dumped in Egypt, for example, there may be a mating season for sharks, and more agitated behavior. Bathers or divers may break the rules when diving or act like a wounded animal and end up with an incident. In other words, everything is not as simple as it might seem at first glance, especially through the prism of media stories, from which the shark just always takes and attacks people, which is not at all the case.