Many people are unsure about Scuba Diving and claim with certainty that they would never try it. Ask them why? and one of the most common replies is ‘Are you kidding? I’ve seen the movie Jaws!’. So is this fear of sharks and Scuba diving justified?
Well, we’d be lying if we said that the chances of seeing and encountering a shark was low or even non existent. Let’s face it, you dive in open waters and as the biggest predators in the ocean, there are over 400 different species of sharks. However, hundreds of thousands of divers encounter them on dives across the world and that’s not counting the daredevil kind who specifically go shark diving wanting to cross it off their ‘list of things to do before I die’ and they don’t become shark bait.
Contrary to popular belief, Jaws and the endless shark attack programs shown on TV, there have been very few shark attacks on Scuba divers. Let’s just say your chances of getting hit by lightning, dying of a wasp, bee or snake bite are a lot more than becoming a shark’s supper. In the United States the annual risk of death from lightning is 30 times greater than that from shark attack. (*Photo by manoellemos on flickr)
If you think about it logically, Sharks just like most animals are weary of foreign objects (read as humans in the ocean!). Look at it from a shark’s point of view- if you came across a noisy bubble blowing, large strange shaped creature carrying Scuba gear and equipment on their backs that often flashes bright lights (with dive flashlights or underwater cameras) and not to mention in groups or at least more than one, would you stick around to figure whether they would harm you? If you’re still thinking, the answer is No.
Worldwide there have been probably 70-100 shark attacks annually resulting in about 5-15 deaths as compared to the millions of dives conducted each each. Of these the Scuba diving related shark attack percentage is very low. The majority of this unfortunate incidents occurred to surfers, swimmers, skin divers, kayakers while swimming or surfing in near shore waters. In most instances, these probably are cases of mistaken identity that occur under conditions of poor water visibility and not an intentional to feed on the human. The victim seldom sees its attacker and the shark does not return after inflicting a single bite or slash wound as it soon realizes that it isn’t it’s usual prey.
As bad as a Shark taking a nip at you may sound and with no intention of downplaying the severity of the situation, the shark attack trauma is less common than such beach-related injuries as spinal damage, dehydration, jellyfish and stingray stings and sunburn.
A few stats on your odds of being attacked according to the Florida Museum of Natural History based on data from 68 ocean lifeguard agencies within jurisdiction is
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
(*Photo by c.lathe on flickr)
At first many divers find the thought of sharks quite disturbing mostly cause they tend to have a certain presence that you can’t quite trust. But if you do get the pleasure (yes, it is exhilarating to be in the presence of such a creature) of seeing one, you will find that they tend to be more afraid of you than you of them with the exception of a few types (namely- the Great White Shark, Tiger Sharks and Bull Sharks). Sharks are definitely not the evil monsters that you see on TV. They truly are very misunderstood.
If this is still the only unnerving fear you have of Scuba diving, the best and only way of overcoming it is facing it head on. Only by experience will you get over your fears and it won’t take you long to wish you spot a harmless shark on a dive.