Myths and Tips
by Tamra Werner
Are you afraid to dip your toes in the ocean? Shark myths with tips will hopefully clarify some common questions and score you some big points in trivia games. Here goes:
Myth: Sharks are man-eaters and killers.
Tip: Bees kill about 800,000 people a year compared to about 10 deaths from sharks. Sharks are apex predators, but most fatalities are mistaken identities.
Myth: A woman menstruating should not swim in the ocean because it will attract sharks.
Tip: Menstruating women worldwide swim in the ocean without any known incidents.
Myth: If you cut yourself in the ocean and bleed, get out of the water ASAP.
Tip: Get out right away if you need medical attention. Otherwise, enjoy your swim. Sharks are not interested in human blood.
Myth: If you pee in the water, sharks will smell it and look for you.
Tip: Let it out. No one will know, and sharks are not interested in our urine.
Myth: If you see a shark, you should swim fast, making lots of splashes to scare it.
Tip: Splashing will only attract the shark more. You will look like injured prey.
Myth: If a shark swims toward you, it means you're their next meal.
Tip: Many sharks are curious and might want to check you out, especially juveniles. Don't panic; they sense fear (easier said than done!).
Myth: Never look a shark in the eyes.
Tip: Don't get into a staring contest, but if a shark approaches, look right at them. The shark is sizing you up as a predator or prey. Stand your ground. If you turn and swim fast, they might chase you thinking you are prey. So, calmy, get out of the water.
Myth: Swimming with seals and sea lions is fun and safe.
Tip: "You are known by the friends you keep." Sure seals are cute, but they are also the main meal for sharks. You don't want a case of mistaken identity. Where there are seals, there might be sharks. Avoid seal populated areas.
Myth: Fisheries throwing fish parts in the ocean is polluting.
Tip: Toss in the recycled fish and help feed hungry sharks. Just don't jump in! Many sharks are starving due to the declining ecosystem.
Myth: Never touch a shark.
If a shark gets close, look at it, raise your hand and push the shark's nose down and to the side while locking your elbow.
Use the other hand to push on the side of the gills to keep it from circling back.
Get out ASAP.
Some sharks are territorial and could get aggressive if you are on their turf.
Myth: There is only one shark.
Tip: You might not see the others. Some sharks use each other to distract prey. Be aware of your surroundings, check every direction continuously, and have a signal or verbal warning sound with your fellow divers or swimmers.
Myth: Like Mom's 30-minute eating rule, it is okay to go back in the water 30 minutes after seeing a great white near the beach.
Tip: Sorry, Mom, both are myths! Stay clear of the area for two days. There might be a reason why a great white shark(s) came so close to the beach and could be back. Check with SharkBytes for history and sightings. Consult with the local beach patrol for safety alerts.
So go ahead and dip your toes, but remember, we are visitors when we enter the ocean. Respecting the environment and learning marine life behaviors help protect them and us.
Tamra Werner is the children's author of Koli the Great White Shark who teaches children about the marine ecosystem through his adventures, friendships and more.