We can thank the movie Jaws for instilling intense fear of sharks in humans. But sharks kill an average of only three people a year worldwide. Overwhelmingly, these attacks occur when the human is unaware there are sharks nearby. Pet dogs, bathtub slips, and falling icicles kill more people annually than sharks. Most attacks on humans are accidents anyway, since we aren’t the preferred prey of sharks. Meanwhile, humans kill about 100 million sharks every year between fishing, beach nets, and trophy hunting. So who should really be afraid?
It’s impossible to know how many humans willingly swim with sharks every year. There are so many shark dive opportunities to choose from. While bites do happen, usually they happen when someone hasn’t followed basic safety rules. These days, deaths during shark dives are almost unheard of. Even cage-free diving is relatively safe regardless of how many sharks are in the water. During most fatal shark attacks on humans, the victim doesn’t even see the shark before it attacks. Chances are, a shark you can see coming is not one that will attack. Large sharks in particular tend to attack from below, like this little guy:
Planning to swim with sharks? Try these safety tips:
Ironically, large species of sharks like the tiger, bull, short-fin mako, and the great white are far less likely to attack humans than black-tip or white-tip reef sharks. When large sharks bite swimmers, these bites tend to be investigatory, or the human was mistaken for the sharks usual prey. After all, sharks don’t have hands to reach out and touch things. Problem is, a shark larger than 6 feet in length can do serious damage to a puny human without even trying. Recently, surf champion Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark — or rather, his board was. Footage shows the shark was plenty large enough to kill an adult, but Fanning was unharmed.
There’s no reason not to swim with sharks if you really want to. Conservation dives are an especially good choice since focus will be on keeping you and the sharks safe. You should be wary of any shark dive that “guarantees” sharks. These often use chumming or baiting which can be hazardous to you, the sharks, and anyone else in the water nearby. Be sure to use a reputable dive company — you don’t want to end up like the couple that the film Open Water is based on. Follow basic safety rules. And be sure to take plenty of pictures so your friends and family can live vicariously through you.