Unpleasant yet intriguing as the subject of sharks and the sea may be, I found some good data on Divester for vacationers who surf, swim, scuba dive, snorkel, and enjoy all sorts of water sports. Summer may be over, but many friends and families will soon take trips to beach destinations such as Hawaii, Caribbean, Mexico, or Australia where the sand is as warm as the day.
Sharks are out there. It's true. They are one of the great predators of the sea. But whales still rank higher on the marine food chain, and I've heard they can take a Great White shark down (someone correct me if I'm wrong). Nonetheless, one of the things that stirs shark fears is all the media hype coupled with ignorance about the true nature of shark attacks. How common are they? Divester examined a 200-page report called Finding a Balance. If knowledge is power, here are some statistics to help quell your fears (and mine).
- The number of shark-related fatalities has dropped from 13% in the 1990s to 8%, attributed largely to advances in safety practices, medical treatment, and greater public awareness.
- In 2005, surfers and boardriders composed 54% of victims worldwide; swimmers 37%; and divers 5%.
- There appear to be "no causative factors" for bites.
- The average depth in which bites occur is 20 feet and average distance offshore was 330 feet.
- Florida, South Africa, and Australia have the highest number of shark bite incidents.
- Although some degree of conditioning can occur between sharks and cage diving boats, this happens when operators do not comply with regulations and allow sharks to feed on the bait. However, this conditioning occurs between the shark and cage diving boats and cannot be linked to any conditioning with bathers as potential prey items.
And since the International Shark Attack File reported that there have have been 870 reported, documented shark bites worldwide since 1990, chances are extremely slim you'll have an issue.
Once on a snorkeling tour with my sister, she saw a 4-foot long reef shark swim about 20 feet below her, but the shark had no interest in the snorkel group. Of course, if you're intrigued by sharks enough to swim near them, there are plenty of "swim with sharks" tours out there. Go, adrenaline junkies, go. Me? I'll linger ashore sipping drinks with tiny umbrellas, taking quick dips to cool off.