Byline: HS
Story by HS

A Bitesize Guide to Sharks

Will Smith was up for the challenge, are you?

Will Smith has taken the plunge to fulfill his bucket list of diving with sharks to celebrate his 50th year.

As a fellow diver and lover of sharks I thought it would be good to write a few articles about Scuba Diving which will inevitably include a significant amount of shark content. I will provide some basic information to dispel the myths and fear surrounding sharks created by Jaws and other Sharkplotation movies.

It is estimated that sharks have been around for around 450 Million years. To put that into perspective, dinosaurs became extinct around 66 Million years ago and humans only arrived on the planet around 200,000 years ago. So, when you go into the water, you really are going into their world, not ours.

Sharks are the closest to evolutionary perfection of any species on the planet.

Apart from a few species that are such as the Great White which can cover large distances, most sharks are largely residential to a particular area.

This idea of residency rather than territory is very important. The easiest way to explain this is to compare a shark to a dog. If you go somewhere where a dog lives, the dog will most likely come over and sniff or lick you. If it feels threatened it may snarl, bark or even attack you, because you are the intruder in the dog’s territory and the dog is predisposed to defend its territory if it feels threatened.

A shark has one essential difference. As the apex predator, a shark is unlikely to feel threatened, unless by another shark, so the territorial instinct isn’t a motivation. While an intruder will attract attention, a shark is not likely to feel it has to defend anything. Unlike a dog however, a shark cannot sniff or lick you: it could bite. The problem is that not only does a shark have big powerful jaws, sharp teeth and lots of them, if it bites you the results can be serious.

Deaths from shark attacks are caused, not because a shark wants to eat you, but because the bite will sever a limb or caused a massive wound which causes the victim to bleed to death. In reality, if the shark does bite off a limb, it will spit it out, because it won’t like the bone.

The are some simple rules to minimise any risk to yourself in the water should you encounter a shark, or to avoid an encounter in the first place. Never swim at dawn or dusk, the prevalent times for attacks. Fish are nocturnal and that’s when a shark is about to feed or will be hungry because it hasn’t yet fed. Don’t splash around, that is a distress signal and will more likely invite an attack.

By no means is this a definitive explanation, but hopefully it may help allay some fears and dispel the myth that sharks are evil. We have a place in their world and, as with any creature, we have the responsibility to protect them and their environment, not just for them but for ourselves and the future of the planet.

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