June 30, 2015 | Ashley Brosnahan

Well the start of the 2015 summer certainly has been interesting!  It seems as if we have been bombarded on social media with shark sightings of all kinds.  The big hammerheads that have been plying the beaches have kept the lifeguards busy separating the Apex predators and the beach goers.  I do find it rather amusing that there is such hysteria about the sharks.  After all it is their home.  I know that most of our visitors are shocked to learn that there are sharks in our waters and they do come close to the beach.  The hysteria is a bit much this year though.

Sharks are an apex predator.  The only thing that preys on sharks is humans.  In being such they are the kings of their domain.  They generally are able to eat whatever they feel like.  The movie Jaws really did a disservice to the shark.  It’s portrayal of a rogue human devouring machine could not be further from the truth.  In fact you are 30 times more likely to be struck by lightening than killed by a shark.  Generally speaking most shark bites are a factor of mistaken identity.  Sharks tend to be a bit curious and will bite objects to identify them as a food source.  Usually a shark bite is a hit and run. The shark bites and then quickly releases the person and disappears. These attacks usually involve injuries to the leg below the knee and are not usually fatal. Humans are usually considered too bony to be a good meal for a shark. Rarely do they come back for a second bite. Hit-and-run attacks are probably most often cases of mistaken identity. They usually happen near the surface and in poor visibility. Breaking surf, heavy currents, and other factors may make it hard for the shark to see its victim clearly.
Sharks like the Bling.  Large flashy jewelry can trigger a hit and run.  What happens a lot of times is that a shark sees the flash of the jewelry underwater and mistakes it for the scales of a favorite food fish.  They quickly come in to investigate and may grab a quick nip to see if what is flashing underwater is what they thought it was.  So it is best to leave the bling on the beach. Sharks are also attracted to brightly colored swimsuits and erratic tan lines.  The contrast in colors tends to mimic the natural camouflage of food fish.  Another thing that triggers a shark bite is surfers.  A surfer sitting on their board waiting for a wave very closely resembles a seal.  The seals are a natural food source for the larger Great White and Tiger Sharks.
Last week we saw an inordinate amount of hammerhead sharks in the surf and around the inland bays.  It is generally believed that these sharks were here to give birth to their young.  There were numerous sightings from the bays to the beaches in and around ocean city.  One shark that washed up on the beach around the state line beach gave birth to around 20 baby hammerhead sharks.  The mother shark died and was buried up by the sand dunes around Indian street in Fenwick Island.  While they may have been a menacing sight to beach goers they were not here to grab a quick human snack.

So in general what are your chances of being attacked by a shark?  Here are some interesting facts:
  • In the U.S., your chances of getting killed by lightning are 30 times greater than dying of a shark attack.
  • Bees, wasps, and snakes kill more people each year than sharks.
  • Drowning, heart attacks, beach accidents resulting in spinal injury, sunburn, cuts from stepping on sea shells, dehydration, jellyfish stings, and traffic accidents going to or from the beach are all far more common than shark attacks.
  • Between 1990 and 2009, there were 15,011 bicycle fatalities, compared with only 14 deaths due to shark attack. In 2009 alone, there were 630 deaths due to bicycles and 1 shark-related fatality.
  • Between 1985 and 2010, there were 1,602 tornadoes in the state of Florida, which resulted in 125 deaths. Florida waters witnessed 484 shark attacks and 6 fatalities.

If you are still afraid to step foot in the water here are some tips that will help you to avoid a run in with the oceans Apex predator:
  • Stay out of the water at night, dusk, or dawn. Sharks are most active at night.
  • Swim in a group. Sharks prefer to attack lone victims.
  • Keep close to shore. It will be easier for help to reach you in an attack.
  • Avoid sandbars and sharp drop-offs where fish congregate.
  • Stay out of polluted or murky water.
  • Avoid areas being used by fishermen.
  • Be wary of feeding birds, or porpoises, which indicate the presence of fish.
  • Do not swim if you are bleeding. Sharks can detect tiny amounts of blood.
  • Do not wear shiny jewelry; underwater it resembles fish scales.
  • Avoid bright swimsuits and uneven tanning. Contrasts attract sharks.
  • Do not splash a lot, since it attracts sharks.
  • Keep pets out of the water. Erratic movements attract sharks.
  • Never try to touch any type of shark.
Sharks live in the Ocean.  It should not be alarming to people that they are there.  They have been around for thousands of years and will be for thousands more to come.  They are not out to get you.  It is safe to go in the water so come on down to the beach and enjoy it!  Summer is here the ocean is warm and inviting.  I myself can’t wait to go for a nice refreshing dip!  See you all at the Beach…

*Statistics are from the International Shark Attack File, maintained by the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and the American Elasmobranch Society.


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