I am going snorkeling and diving. Should I worry about sharks?

Worried? It depends. But in all cases, you should be prepared and know your sharks.

How Likely Are Shark Attacks?

Source: Shark Attack FAQ (Florida Museum).

Of all the existing species of sharks, only about a dozen should be considered dangerous when encountered. White, bull, and tiger sharks are responsible for most unprovoked attacks worldwide. The chances of being attacked by a shark are very small compared to other animal attacks or other causes of injuries and death.

Even if the chances of an attack are very small, it is important to be aware that sharks are highly effective predators, and entering the water with them requires a certain preparation and overcoming some primary fears like being eaten alive or being dragged to the bottom.

The best approach to avoid attacks is one of respect and caution.

There are various types of shark attacks:

▸ Provoked attacks are caused by humans touching sharks. This can happen when sharks are removed from fishing gear but recent cases also involved divers who were attacked after grabbing or feeding a shark while underwater.

Unprovoked attacks happen when sharks make the first contact. This can take three forms:

  • Hit-and-run attacks happen near beaches, where sharks try to capture fish. Sharks can mistake people at the surface for their normal food. They would often take a ‘test bite’ and let go, leaving the area. These accidents usually result in minor injuries where legs and feet are often bitten.
  • Sneak attacks take place in deeper waters when the victim doesn’t see the shark. These attacks result in serious injuries or even death.
  • Bump-and-bite attacks happen when the shark circles and actually bumps the victim with its head or body before biting. Like the sneak attacks, these can provoke serious injuries and death.
🔗 Useful Pieces of Advice when Diving with SharksShark Biology, Myths, and Visiting Rules (by the Red Sea Sharks Organization)
Advice to Divers Encountering a Shark (by the Florida Museum)
Shark Diving Tips & Advice (by the Shark Trust)

And if you are planning to dive, snorkel, or swim in reefs that sharks may visit, please take the time to browse our Reefs Rules and learn before you go. Thanks!

[Reference] Shark Attack FAQ (Florida Museum).


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Many thanks to Agnese Mancini for our many interactions on the topic and for allowing us to use some of her material directly.

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