Mar 17, 2024

5 Debunked Shark Attack Myths That Could Save Your Life

Shark Attack Myths

Continuous warm weather across Volusia County drives hoards of swimmers to the local beaches, but New Smyrna Beach has also attracted a mullet migration, forcing the beach to live up to its reputation as “the shark bite capital of the world.” 

All Daytona Beach swimmers should be aware of the risks of shark bites and take necessary precautions to minimize their risk. It’s also a good idea, however, to distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to shark attacks.

Below we bust five common shark-attack myths for all Daytona Beach swimmers.

Myth #1: Sharks Are After You!

While Hollywood has portrayed sharks as cold-blooded killers who come after people, like in Jaws or The Shallows, this is simply not true and is one of the biggest misconceptions people have of the large fish. Sharks are typically chasing their usual prey—in most cases fish.

But because people are splashing around, swimming, or playing water sports, the commotion may confuse the shark and lead the animal to take an “exploratory bite,” says National Geographic.

Gene Lytwyn, the owner of The Fishin’ Hole, a fishing gear shop in Daytona Beach, goes on to say that the toothy sea dwellers are after the mullet and fish, not humans. “By accident, their bite may get a hold of a person’s leg or a person’s arm,” he told the News-Journal. “Generally, they immediately let go.”

Myth #2: Swimmers Are Fresh Meat for Sharks

It is true that swimming, surfing, spearfishing, and diving, among other water activities, can put people in close contact with sharks. But George Burgess, shark expert and curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told National Geographic that the few species of large sharks that do hunt man-sized prey and not small fish can confuse humans for seals.

While high-profile exploratory bites do occur, such as those during surfing competitions, studies show that in California, for example, a surfer has a 1 in 17 million chance of being bitten.

The United States Lifesaving Association says that there is less than a one in three million chance that a person will be bitten by a shark while swimming at Florida beaches.

In most cases, surfers are typically further out from shore and spend a longer amount of time in the water compared to the average beachgoer. Experts argue that sharks can perceive this as a territorial issue while they’re hunting for prey and may attack the human instead.

Also, a majority of incidents are “provoked” attacks, in which case someone is bitten while spearfishing or attempting to catch and release it from a line or net, notes National Geographic.

Myth #3: Jellyfish Will Protect You from Jaws

This is a common myth, perpetuated by popular films like The Shallows, where a vulnerable swimmer can be shielded from the threat of a shark by a school of jellyfish.  However, this isn’t the truth. According to National Geographic, shark skin is so tough that jellyfish stings would do nothing to harm them or protect you.

The only place where jellyfish might have an effect is if it got in their eyes, but because sharks have a tough membrane that can easily close over their eyes, it is not likely that this tactic would work. Instead, you may be more likely to get stung by the jellyfish than suffer from a shark bite. So steer clear of the gelatinous creatures if possible.

Myth #4: The Eye in the Sky Will Keep You Safe

A string of shark sightings and attacks over the years prompted a number of Australian states to increase aerial patrols, according to the Washington Post. But after decades of operations, there was little evidence to suggest that there were benefits for the manned aircraft to monitor recreational waters for sharks.

Some shark species only come up to the surface when they strike, while others lie deeper in the ocean. If waters are murky or skies are unclear, it makes surveying vast areas of water for sharks close to impossible.

The Washington Post suggests beaches use a “shark barrier” or thin mesh nets that are not harmful to the wildlife. The nets create an underwater fence from the surface to the seabed around beaches and help to keep predators out.

Myth #5: “I Know What I’m Doing”

Not so fast. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has decided that a uniform warning flag system would benefit those visiting the state’s beaches. This means all beaches use the same color and shape for different warnings such as rip currents and other hazards.

While “sharks present” is not included in these universal beach warning flags, beaches must post warning signs of “dangerous marine life present.”

Beach safety officials at New Smyrna Beach, known as the “shark bite capital of the world,” not only posted numerous signs of shark sightings, they also advised beachgoers to not go into the water above their knees. Be aware of all warning signs and mind directions given to you by lifeguards and other beach safety patrol. If you know that an area has been the site of multiple shark bite attacks, avoid swimming there wherever possible. You can avoid dangerous injuries and medical conditions with some proper safety precautions. 

Recovering Compensation for a Shark Attack: What to Know 

In some cases, you might be interested in learning more about whether or not you can get compensation for a shark attack. You have to prove a few elements in order to be successful. First, you must be able to show that someone owed you a duty of care and that by failing to do this, it led to a shark attack. In some cases, you may be able to sue a beach owner, city, tour company, lifeguard, or another entity responsible for maintaining a safe environment. You must show that the defendant owed a duty of care, that the defendant was negligent, that this negligence caused injuries, and that the plaintiff suffered damages. 

Working directly with an experienced personal injury lawyer is one of the best ways to clarify your rights and determine whether or not you have the ability to file a lawsuit. It can be challenging to hold someone else accountable for your injuries related to a shark attack, but speaking to an attorney can help you understand the involved legal issues. 

What are My Chances of Being Bitten by a Shark?

Although many shark attacks are well publicized in the media and signs are posted on many beaches with sharks, your chances of being attacked by a shark are actually very low. Many people actually suffer fatality rates much higher with drownings, natural disasters, and other oceanside risks. A few bites usually occur every single year from sharks and often these bites can be attributed to mistaken identity. The reported number of bites has also been decreasing over the last decade. 

What Are the Different Kinds of Shark Bites?

Shark bites can be broken down into two main categories, unprovoked bites and provoked bites. Unprovoked bites happen when a shark makes the first contact from a sneak bite, a bump-and-bite, or a hit-and-run bite. Sneak bites, for example, take place in deeper waters, whereas hit-and-run bites usually occur closer to beaches where sharks are trying to capture fish. Provoked bites are those that are caused by humans interacting with sharks. Removing them from fishing nets or unhooking sharks from fishing nets are the most likely chances for a provoked bite. However, there have been some incidents involving divers underwater who were attempting to feed or grab a shark and causing a shark bite.

What Is the Best Way to Decrease My Risk of Being Bitten by a Shark?

A few different tips can be used to decrease your overall chances of being seriously hurt by a shark bite. It is best to always minimize your risks wherever possible to avoid the devastating consequences of a shark bite. First, stay in groups since sharks are more likely to approach someone who is by themselves. Avoid going in the water during twilight hours or darkness because this is when sharks have a greater sensory advantage and when they are most active. 

Never wander too far from shore since this not only puts you at higher risk of interacting with a shark but puts you far away from medical assistance if and when a bite does occur. Avoid waters that are known for having high levels of sharks and be careful when waters are unclear and when you're wearing brightly colored or tan-colored clothing. Sharks are able to see contrast particularly well, which can attract them to you more quickly.

Does Sunscreen Attract Sharks?

There is no specific evidence that indicates that sharks are impacted in any way by sunscreens. You should continue to wear sunscreens to protect yourself from sun damage. Be aware that clothing can attract sharks based on its contrast with the water. 

What Should I Do if I’m Attacked by a Shark?

If you have already been attacked by a shark, you of course need to seek medical attention immediately. Your very next call, however, should be to Morgan & Morgan, to determine if you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. Don’t face your medical recovery, expenses, and bills alone. Contact us for a free, no-obligation case evaluation to get started.