SOS acknowledges the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) as the definitive source of scientifically accurate information on shark attacks.
There are over
500 species of sharks worldwide, very few of which are considered potentially
dangerous to humans. Incidents of people being bitten by sharks are
extremely rare, yet ignorance and sensationalism have caused the
‘man-eater’ myth to be widely perceived as reality.
It is often difficult to identify the shark species involved in an incident, which may result in the wrong species being blamed. The size and shape of a wound gives some indication of the species and size of shark involved, however it is often difficult to say with any degree of certainty.
Three shark species, the white shark, tiger shark, and bull shark, are most frequently associated with serious incidents, yet numerous other shark species have been known to bite if they feel threatened.
Every year, around 60 shark bite incidents are reported worldwide, although fatalities are quite unusual. Despite the relative rarity of shark bites, the fear of sharks is a common phenomenon, having been fuelled by the occasional instances of serial incidents (such as the Western Australia fatalities of 2011-12). Almost all shark experts feel that the danger presented by sharks has been exaggerated; even the creator of the Jaws phenomenon, the late Peter Benchley, attempted to dispel the perception of sharks as being man-eating monsters in the years before his death.
While there is no way to completely eliminate the possibility of a negative shark encounter while in the water, one may take the following precautions to reduce the risk of such an incident occurring:
· Avoid the water at dawn, dusk, or night, when sharks tend to feed;
· Avoid areas that sharks generally frequent, such as murky waters and steep drop-offs;
· Avoid swimming alone; always swim near a group of people;
· Swim close to shore, ideally at beaches monitored by life guards;
· Prevent pets from entering the water with you;
· Avoid wearing shiny jewellery, which may attract sharks;
· Avoid areas where prey animals congregate, such as seals;
· Avoid areas where the remains of fish have been discarded into the water, such as near fishermen cleaning their catch.
Our view on this issue is based on the most current scientific literature, where available. However, we recognise that our knowledge of the natural world is ever changing and new discoveries are being made every day. If you believe our position on this issues may warrant a review, based on new scientific evidence, please send us your comments and any related literature and we will endeavour to investigate and amend our position where appropriate.