How to Stay Safe in Cape Waters This Season

A great white shark.

Well, it’s that time of year. No, not the time of year where we enjoy the sunshine and summertime. It’s the time of year we start worrying about Great White Sharks off the shores of Cape Cod and we worry ourselves to the point where we are so terrified of Great White Sharks that we stay clear of the beach and stay locked away at home.

Okay, I’m most certainly exaggerating. But only to prove the point that in reality—the sharks are indeed ten times more afraid of us than we are of them.

Think about it. We have all this great technology and general knowledge about these guys and they, of course, do not know what a human is. In fact, sharks, especially Great White Sharks, don’t even like humans. We’re far too thin and bony.

What they much prefer is the protein rich meat and vitamin filled fat of a seal.

In fact, here are some statistics and cold, hard facts:

  • Here in New England, we have a ridiculously low chance of being attacked by a shark. An overwhelming amount of shark attacks take place on the southeast U.S coast and the Pacific. Florida has the highest amount of recorded attacks, fatal or not.
  • On that note, Australia is the country with the highest amount of fatal shark attacks. While the U.S has more unprovoked attacks in total (1,104 versus Australia’s 665), Australia has 232 fatalities compared to the U.S’s 32 fatalities.
  • Believe it or not, the risk of drowning in any body of water is higher.
  • According to the National Aquarium, the likelihood of being killed by a shark is 1 in 3.7 million. You are more likely to be killed by a champagne cork or a falling coconut or contract West Nile Virus or be struck by lightning than be killed or attacked by a Shark.

That said—there are ways to be safe in the water, and most of them are pretty obvious. First: if there are signs outside the beach saying “WARNING: Sharks Spotted Nearby” it would be more than prudent to not go in the water. By all means, enjoy the sandy beach, but maybe stay clear of the water. Another simple tip: Do not go in the water if you are bleeding; sharks can smell blood and trace it back to the source from miles away.  Another preventative tactic includes swimming in groups. Sharks are less likely to attack large groups and more likely to attack lone swimmers. Another great tip is to avoid the ocean during dawn, dusk, or nighttime as sharks are most active during these times. In fact a significant portion of worldwide shark attacks occur during the dark hours of the day.

A good rule of thumb: if you are actually attacked by a shark (and I can’t stress this enough, it is very rare) do everything you can to get away. Tactics that have worked include screaming underwater, blowing bubbles, and then literally pulling to get away.

The point of the facts and tips of this article is not to make people more afraid, to but to just help people be prepared and hopefully see sharks in a different light. The likelihood of “JAWS” actually happening in real life is very low, to the point of being impossible. What is unfortunately very possible, are entire populations of certain shark species being killed off, which our ecosystem cannot afford. So the next time you hear anything about sharks anywhere, just remember the odds of being attacked are even lower than a one in a million shot and they have much more reason to be afraid of us than we of them.

ChristianPChristian Papadellis is one of CCB’s summer interns for 2016.  He grew-up spending his summers on Cape Cod and is currently entering his junior year at Colby College in Waterville, Maine where he studies English Literature and Art History.

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