How to Fend Off a Shark Attack
So you’re in Australia on your dream vacation. One minute you’re snorkeling with the family, wondering what you’ll eat for dinner, not thinking about work, maybe you’re even a little bit happy. Suddenly, below you, the distinct outline of a shark appears. Before the hair on the back of your neck has time to settle, three more sharks appear. This is not good.
If you know how to fend off a shark attack, you’ll be less likely to soil your wetsuit should you find yourself in this scenario.
The best way to escape a shark attack is to simply not be attacked in the first place. Sounds easy, right? There are a few ways to lessen your chance of a shark attack.
1. Travel in groups
Sharks are far more likely to attack an individual human than a group. One of us is pretty big, but not much bigger than their other prey animals. A group of us – that’s a different story. Remember that a shark only attacks when it feels it has an advantage. Being outnumbered reduces that advantage considerably.
2. Have an exit strategy
Know the quickest way out of the water at all times. Sometimes this will be as easy as jumping back onto the boat that is nearby – other times, you may have to wait a while to get back on land. But simply having the knowledge could save your skin.
3. Daytime is Ocean time
At dusk or in the evening, sharks have a serious sensory advantage. Your visual clues are almost nil, and their senses haven’t weakened at all. Also, most sharks that are likely to attack humans are most active when it is dark and especially in the twilight hours. If you’re going to try your hand at snorkeling, schedule your trip with plenty of daylight out.
4. Try Not to Look Like Prey
SCUBA divers floating on the surface resemble shark prey, and on top of that, they are less likely to see a shark approaching. Yes, it is good to stay near your escape method (i.e. the boat) but try not to look like a delicious shark meal.
Should all of these methods fail to keep you safe from an attack, there are some steps you can take when the shark is physically approaching you as if to attack.
The first thing to remember is to stay calm. Easy to say when you’re not nose to nose with a Great White, but if you keep a sense of calm about you, you’ll make better decisions. Keep your eye on the shark so you know where it is at all times. If there is something nearby that can act as a shield – a reef, a big rock, a sunken ship, anything – lean up against it. This gives you a smaller area to protect, and gives the shark less chance to attack. Then, be prepared to go on the offensive.
The tried and true method of striking a shark where it is most vulnerable is the method taught by most survival experts. Sharks gills and eyes are the areas most sensitive to pain. As a diver, you’re likely to have something in your possession you can use to attack the shark – a camera, your fist, maybe even a harpoon gun or other attack tool. Poking or stabbing the shark in its sensitive areas will annoy the shark and make him think twice about his advantages in this fight.
Before you go attacking any shark you see, remember that the shark has every right to be in its natural environment. Most sharks will show themselves to a diver out of curiosity, and simply move on to an easier target. There is no need to be overly aggressive around sharks.
There are products only recently discovered which contain “semiochemicals” or “chemical messengers” which are deployed in the event of a shark encounter in an attempt to trigger the shark to flee the scene. In testing, six shark species were completely repelled by the chemicals dropped into a huge amount of food. The idea behind the chemical is to trigger the shark’s alarm response which sends them packing in no time. There are also shark repellents based on magnets and electricity – unfortunately for the diver, none of these products are currently commercially available, but research is ongoing.
Your best bet in avoiding a shark attack is to follow the 4 guidelines above and avoid shark contact altogether. If you must come in contact with a shark, be prepared to fight back.