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SHARK ATTACKS


We have decided to put some information on our WEBSITE with regard to SHARK ATTACKS as they were publicized so much in the year 2001 and again in 2005, especially in Florida. Unfortunately publicity of this fashion has an effect on holiday makers visiting our state. Please read on as you may be surprised by the statistics lower down the page.

We have to report a fatality in the year of 2010. A nine foot shark mauled a Florida Wind surfer in February. It is the first swimmer who has died in a shark attack since 2005.

Artist Stephen Howard Schafer aged 38 was kite boarding 1 mile offshore at Stuart, Florida when the wind died and his sail dropped leaving him surrounded by sharks. By the time lifeguards reached him he was bleeding profusely from a 10" gash to his right thigh. Paramedics performed CPR on shore but he died from his injuries. The Medical Examiner has determined it was an unprovoked attack by either a Bull or Tiger Shark.

Another victim was a surfboarder in California in 2011.

To put things into perspective here are some other interesting statistics you may be unaware of. Your more likely to die from one of the items listed below than any SHARK.

1. 2,000 people per year are killed at Stoplight Intersections in the USA

2. 150 people are killed each year by falling coconuts.

3. Malaria carrying mosquitoes kill about 800,000 people per year.

4. High school and college football injuries claim on average 12 deaths annually.

5. This one's hard to believe but Champagne Corks kill
24 people per year worldwide.

6. Almost 6,000 die from tripping and falling at home each year.

7. Raw meat. Approximately around 5,000 die each year from
consuming uncooked contaminated meat in the USA.

8. Cow's cause blunt force trauma in about 20 Americans each year.

9. 104 people were killed in wind related incidents including hurricanes.
Tornadoes claimed 70 lives in the USA in 2012.

10. Bee stings kill about 100 people per year in the USA.

11. Lightning kills around 24,000 people annually worldwide.

12. Jellyfish stings kill around 40 people per year

So there you have it.
Very unlikely to be a Shark Attack

2015 UPDATE

MIDWAY ISLAND MENACE
(Picture courtesy Boyceimage.com please visit his great site)

So lets start here with some morbid facts. In the year 2001 the number of people fatally attacked by sharks worldwide was 5. Now I bet that surprised you? Many people were convinced the year of the shark was 2001 but the statistics show otherwise.

To put things in perspective you have a 5312 chance of being fatally killed in Florida by lightning than being killed by a shark. Also, apparently you have a much greater chance of being killed by falling coconuts! Some 86 persons are killed worldwide each year by this event.......and no publicity. So the shark indeed has a bad deal. No doubt such motion pictures as "JAWS" have sparked fear in the eyes of the public.

Unfortunately some people are attacked due to their own stupidity. This has been especially so in Florida. Why go swimming in an area where warnings have been posted that sharks are inshore searching for their favourite delicacy, the Sting Ray which breed in the sandy shallows at certain times of the year......the sharks are Hammerheads.

Also, why would you jump off your dock in Florida into a seething mass of small fish being chased by something. In fact the something was a 400 lb Bull Shark which fatally injured the person concerned. It just bit him and then let him go. Obviously it thought it had fish.

So lets look at the statistics, there were NO FATAL ATTACKS IN FLORIDA IN 2011 or 2012. The last fatality in Florida was 2012.

 

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

2001

2000

Unprovoked attacks
worldwide

72 75 80 75 81 63 59 71 62 61 61 57 63

 68

 85

Attacks in
U.S.A waters

41 31 53 26 30 26 35 42 38 40 30 41 47

 50

 53

Attacks in
Florida waters

28 23 26 11 13 18 32 32 23 19 12 30 29

 34

 37

Fatal attacks
worldwide

3 10 7 12 6 6 4 1 4 4 7 3 4

   5

 11

(Information compiled from the University of Florida-Environmental Sciences Dept)

Confirmed Unprovoked Shark Attacks, 1580–2013

REGION

Total Attacks Fatal Attacks Last Fatality

United States
(Excluding Hawaii)

1055

36

2012

Australia

704

202

2014

Africa

339

93

2013

Asia

129

48

2000

Hawaii

129

10

2013

Pacific Islands / Oceania
(Excluding Hawaii)

126

49

2011

South America

117

26

2013

Antilles and Bahamas

70

16

2013

Middle America

57

27

2011

Europe

49

27

1989

New Zealand

49

9

2013

Réunion Island

33

17

2013

Unspecified / Open Ocean

21

7

1995

Bermuda

3

0

Total:

2,881

569

2013

Sources: Australian Shark Attack File for unprovoked attacks in Australia
International Shark Attack File for unprovoked attacks in all other regions
 

Last Updated: 17 February 2014

 

All data is from the International Shark Attack File, compiled and maintained by the Florida Museum of Natural History, the University of Florida and the American Elasmobranch Society. One of the reasons for the high number of incidents in Florida is as a result of very high aquatic recreational utilization of its attractive waters by both Florida residents and tourists, especially surfers.

In 2004 the notable decline in United States attacks was directly related to a dramatic reduction in Florida incidents. In the summer of 2004, a series of hurricanes and tropical storms swept across Florida, resulting in numerous fatalities and heavy property damage. The storms also affected human beach utilization patterns, resulting in reduced aquatic recreational activities by residents and tourists. The opportunity for shark-human interactions therefore was diminished, resulting in fewer bites.

For 2005 we have again seen a dramatic reduction of Shark Attacks worldwide, but the fatalities have stayed fairly constant. Of this year’s four fatalities, two were in Australia, one in the Indo-Pacific island of Vanuatu and one in the United States. Surfers were the most frequent victims, accounting for 29 incidents, followed by swimmers and waders with 20, and divers with four incidents.

Attacks in Florida showed a slight increase. Five of the state’s 18 shark attacks last year occurred along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Panhandle Area, which is a greater proportion to the Atlantic coast than previous years.

Elsewhere in the United States, five attacks occurred in South Carolina, four each in Texas and Hawaii, three in California, two in North Carolina and one each in New Jersey and Oregon.

In June 2007 two large Bull Sharks were captured in the Intracoastal Waterway by anglers fishing for sharks in less than 20 feet of water. One weighed in excess of 600lb. Our advice is DO NOT SWIM IN THE INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY!


600lb Bull Shark captured at Venetian Isles - Tampa Bay in 2007

Here is another captured at Shore Acres - Tampa Bay in 2007


 

Menstruation and Sharks

Any bodily fluid probably is attractive to sharks. Blood, in any form, may be at the top of the list. The sharks' ability to detect even minute amounts of blood and scents of other organic material is amazing. Several years ago in the Bahamas I observed juvenile blacktip sharks cruising in waist-deep water. We placed a carcass of a filleted fish in the water and watched as several sharks caught scent of the fish and rapidly made a bee-line to the carcass from long distances away. Obviously no movements from the carcass were involved - only smell was used as the sharks weaved back and forth catching the scent of the small (less than a pound) carcass. 

Menstrual blood almost certainly can be detected by a shark, and I'm sure urine can be as well. Do we have positive evidence that it is a factor in shark attack? No, and until some menstruating and non-menstruating divers volunteer to take part in a controlled test we'll never prove it. In my opinion it likely is attractive to sharks in certain situations. 

Certainly menstruating women are attractive to such smell-oriented animals as dogs. Sharks, with their extreme olfaction abilities, surely are capable of detecting at similar low levels. Does that mean a menstruating woman is setting herself up? No, but if one is attempting to maximize reduction of risks it is one thing that can be avoided. 

As of this writing there have been a male:female ratio of 9.2:1, or more than 90% attacks have occurred on males. This reflects a historic pattern of more males engaged in marine aquatic activities, especially those that put humans most at risk, e.g. surfing, diving, long distance swimming, warfare. It in no way can be attributed to sharks "preferring" males over females. In recent years proportionately more females are being attacked because more females are engaging themselves in riskier, formerly males-only activities. 

My advice? Don't worry about it. Lots of women safely dive while menstruating. Although we haven't got solid scientific data on the subject, so far we haven't seen any obvious pattern of increased attacks on menstruating women. 

What Color Apparel or Gear Should I Wear in the Water?

Sharks see contrast particularly well, so any high contrast color apparel or gear used by a human in the water is especially visible to sharks. The bright yellow color traditionally used in water safety flotation devices and rafts is readily seen by human rescuers looking for missing persons in the sea and likely is seen easily by sharks as well. As a result, shark researchers laughingly refer to this color as "yum yum yellow!" Should one replace all these devices with more drab colored items? Of course there is a trade-off involved, but most would agree that the benefit of increasing one's chances of being rescued far outweigh the minimal risk of attracting a shark. By contrast (pardon the pun), divers and swimmers probably can reduce the chance of an interaction with a shark by avoiding bright swimwear or dive gear. I personally prefer to use dark blue or black fins, mask, tank, and wetsuit while diving and make a point of wearing my dive watch under the cuff of my wetsuit, thereby eliminating any chance of light reflection off the face of the watch attracting a shark or barracuda. Similarly, one always should avoid wearing jewelry because the glint of light reflecting off metal approximates the glint of light off the scales of fishes, the normal food items of most sharks.

Advice to Divers Encountering a Shark

If a shark is sighted, stay calm and maintain your position in as quiet a manner as possible. Most sharks merely are curious and will leave on their own accord. Enjoy your opportunity to see one of nature's most magnificent predators. If you have been spearfishing or abalone gathering and are holding your catch, release the catch and quietly exit the area. It is likely that the shark has been attracted to the sound and smells associated with your activity and it is aroused and interested in consuming your catch. Let it have it - no catch is worth the risk of personal injury. 

If a shark begins to get too interested in you by coming closer and closer, the best strategy is to leave the water - swim quickly but smoothly, watching the shark all the time, with your dive partner close at hand. Sharks are less likely to attack a "school" of divers than a solitary individual. If a shark is acting overtly aggressive - making rushes at you, hunching its back, lowering its pectoral (paired side) fins, swimming in a rapid zigzag course, or swimming with rapid up and down movements (sometimes rubbing its belly on the bottom) - look to back up against whatever structure (reef, rock outcropping, piling) is available, thereby reducing the angles with which the shark can approach you. If you are in open water, orient back-to-back with your dive partner and gradually rise to the surface and the safety of your boat. If you are shore diving, gradually descend to the bottom so you can find cover. 

Use whatever inanimate equipment (speargun, pole-spear, camera) you have with you to fend off the shark (when diving in known shark-inhabited waters, it is always good to carry a pole or spear for this purpose). If a shark attacks, the best strategy is to hit it on the tip of its nose. This usually results in the shark retreating. If the retreat is far enough away, then human retreat is in order - again, swim quickly but smoothly, watching the shark all the time, with your dive partner close at hand. An aggressive shark often will return, however, and each subsequent hit to the snout will be less effective, so take advantage of any escape opportunities. If you do not have anything to poke with, use your hand, but remember that the mouth is close to the nose, so be accurate! 

If a shark actually gets you in its mouth, I advise to be as aggressively defensive as you are able. "Playing dead" does not work. Pound the shark in any way possible. Try to claw at the eyes and gill openings, two very sensitive areas. Once released, do all you can to exit the water as quickly as possible because with your blood in the water, the shark very well could return for a repeat attack. 


  Reducing the Risk

The relative risk of a shark attack is very small but it incites fear and risks should always be minimized whenever possible in any activity. The chances of having an interaction with a shark can be reduced if one heeds the following advice:

1. Always stay in groups since sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual.
2. Do not wander too far from shore --- this isolates an individual and additionally places one far away from assistance.
3. Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours when sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage.
4. Do not enter the water if bleeding from an open wound or if menstruating --- a shark's olfactory ability is acute.
5. Wearing shiny jewelry is discouraged because the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales.
6. Avoid waters with known effluents or sewage and those being used by sport or commercial fisherman, especially if there are signs of bait fishes or feeding activity. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such action.
7. Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks --- both often eat the same food items.
8. Use extra caution when waters are murky and avoid uneven tanning and bright colored clothing --- sharks see contrast particularly well.
9. Refrain from excess splashing and do not allow pets in the water because of their erratic movements.
10. Exercise caution when occupying the area between sandbars or near steep drop offs --- these are favorite hangouts for sharks.
11. Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present and evacuate the water if sharks are seen while there. And, of course, do not harass a shark if you see one!


So what  are the odds of being attacked by a shark?  
 
Drowning and other beach-related fatalities 1 in 2 million
Drowning fatalities 1 in 3.5 million
Shark attacks 1 in 11.5 million
Shark attack fatalities 0 in 264.1 million

 

Advice came from the International Shark Attack File
Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

STAY SAFE- Updated  April 2015

 


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