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How to Avoid a Shark Attack While Swimming

Updated on February 1, 2013

You don't have to swim in shark-infested waters to meet a shark. Perhaps due to climate change, or lack of fish stocks, or just because they fancied a change of scenery, the world's ever-dwindling shark population are moving to cooler climes.

Sea water is good for us. It has many healing properties, and to my mind there is nothing more refreshing than swimming in the sea.

It is also a great place for young children to learn how to swim, seeing that salt water is more buoyant than fresh water. It is easier to float in salt water.

How can you protect yourself from shark attack?

First of all, it is important to put it into perspective.

You are TWICE as likely to get hit by lightening as you are to get bitten by a shark, and only 1: 1,000,000 bathers get attacked by a shark in shallow water.

While the numbers are very low, it is that .000001% that worries us, and we want to do everything we can to avoid a shark attack while swimming.


Don't wear brightly colored swimsuits

Sharks are not color blind as previously thought. They see colors very well, and might think you are a large but delightful, brightly colored tropical fish!

Try to wear boring, plain colors, but not black in case they then think you are seal which is one of their favorite meals.

Don't wear jewelry while swimming

Jewelry is by its very nature designed to glint in the sunlight. That includes watches, earrings, rings, necklaces, anything else you can think of that you might choose to wear while in the sea.

Also, if you are on vacation, don't pin your room keys to your body either.

A shark may mistake you for a fish, as they tend to have shimmery scales.

Stay in groups and try not to become separated

Sharks seldom if ever attack a group of people. We become a force to be reckoned with in a group, like a gang on a street corner.

Sharks aren't daft. They won't attempt to attack a few of us at once in shallow water. It would be outnumbered, and they just don't do it.

Don't swim early morning or after dusk

There is a very good reason for this advice. This is when the majority of sharks feed. The ocean is alive at nighttime, even though almost everything on land is sleeping.

Sharks have eyes similar to cats. They can see in the dark. We can't.

Don't swim near sandbars or drop-offs

If you know there are sandbars or drop-offs in the sea where you are swimming, stay away from them. This is where fish shoals and other shark food pass, and there is always the danger of a shark or two hanging around.

You don't want to become shark food too.

Don't swim in murky water, or near effluent outlets

Good reason for this advice. Where there is waste in the water, sea scavengers will there to clean it up. Sharks are scavengers.

They also have perfect vision in dark, murky waters, and you don't.

I would also be wary of any water where a lot of foam and bubbles are present. Half the battle in avoiding shark attacks is to be aware of the presence of a shark. If you can't see, you are at a disadvantage.

Ladies, if you are menstruating, stay out of the water

Seems like such a silly thing to have remind folk off, but even with Tampax on (as the ad says: "you can even swim with Tampax and no-one will know " - except a shark, they forgot to mention that bit) a shark with its highly refined sense of smell will be there in a flash.

Sharks can smell a single drop of blood in the ocean from a distance of 3 miles away! And man, can they move when they are hungry! So, it'll be there within minutes.

Same goes for anyone with a cut or abrasion. Do not go in the water unless your wound is well band-aided.

Do not wander too far from shore

This seems an obvious thing if there is a danger of sharks in the area, but you would be surprised by how many people ignore it.

The further out you are, the more isolated you are likely to be from other people, and also the further you will have to travel to get out of the water should a shark appear, or God forbid, attack you.

Don't allow your dog to play in the water

Sharks are attracted to dogs playing in the water because of the amount of splashing activity created by a dog. It lasts a longer time than humans (we are tired out long before a dog is).

There is some belief that a shark may mistake a playful dog for a dying seal.

Stay away from anyone who is fishing

If there are fishermen nearby, stay away. Swim in another area.

Fish are shark food, if you go near, you could become shark food too.

Keep a lookout for sharks at all times

Even on beaches which have life-guards and spotters on duty, sharks still occasionally come in. Your safety and those around you are best served by knowing that a shark is there. In this event, stay calm, and get out of the water as fast as you can, keeping an eye on the shark at all times.

If it does attack someone, go to their assistance and help fight the shark off by poking it between the eyes.

Sharks very seldom launch an attack on a second person, and tend to keep going after the first person. They are territorial animals, and may see their victim as theirs. They can be chased away with a punch or two.

Never Annoy a Shark

If a shark does appear, no matter how small, do not approach it. An even worse thing to do is to take a swipe at it, sharks do not take kindly to unprovoked attacks.

It is best to leave it well alone. The majority of sharks will wander off themselves without approaching anyone.

There was the case of the young man in Acapulco in 1958. A large shark passed him by in the water, and as it passed, he slapped its tail, for some unknown reason.

The shark immediately turned and bit his leg off!

You have to remember that sharks are not made of bone like us, or even like other fish. They are made of cartilage which gives them an incredible range of lightening fast movements in any direction.

Show them a little respect!


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      or you can just not goin the water

    • RetroBrothers profile image

      Martin Allan 

      5 years ago from Sunny Scotland

      Ha ha good hub, and the Erasure vid was the icing on the cake!

    • ocfireflies profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina


      Very interesting and useful hub!

      Thank You!

      ocfireflies aka Kim

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Your uncle is wise. Thankfully shark attacks are rare - each and every one still makes the news, they are so rare. But better safe than sorry.

    • dailytop10 profile image


      7 years ago from Davao City

      A very useful hub! My uncle lives by the sea and is a fisherman. He always warns me about sharks when I go swimming saying that they won't hesitate to attack me if I'm within their range. His advice was to never swim in deep waters and known shark infested areas.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Absolutely! Stay on the shore, especially when there has been a shark attack in your area. I am astounded by the number of people who will go back in the water within hours of a reported shark attack in the area. It's probably safe enough if that person was eaten, as the shark will have fed and not need more food. But if it just had a bite it will still be hungry!

    • shai77 profile image


      7 years ago

      This is good to know! I really thought the only way to avoid shark attacks was to stay out of the oceans where they might be! I knew blood & splashing around could bring them but I had no idea sharks were attracted to colors or glinty things. Great resource, everyone should read it this summer. I will feel safer at the shore now.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      I love swimming in the sea, especially off the white sands off western Scotland - the worse thing is the cold water, I always thought - but now it seems sharks have moved into UK coastal waters, and have even been seen as far north as the Hebrides. Three swimmers were savaged in the cold waters off north east Russia this summer, in Russia's first ever reported shark attack! So, good idea to stay out of the water!

    • 2patricias profile image


      8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This is a comprehensive list of how to avoid being attacked by a shark.

      However, it reinforces my belief that I don't really want to swim in the sea. Of course, I live so far north that the water is freezing, so probably doesn't matter.

      Good hub and I've voted it up.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      There were 3 (serious) shark attacks in north east Russia this year, giving Russia her first ever recorded shark attacks. Sharks are moving into cooler waters. I also love swimming in the sea, but will keep a close look-out myself.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Wow. You have a lot of good tips here. I love swimming in the ocean, but the threat of sharks is really scary.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Have you ever met a shark while diving? I'd be interested to hear.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      As a SCUBA diver I agree. Sharks are hunters. Simple do not be a "meal!" Awesome!

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Thanks for commenting Andrew :) If you are a surfer (as in your photo) I'd imagine there will be some good advice here for you too.

    • andrewwilliams63 profile image


      8 years ago

      Good hub, thanks


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