When Sharks and Humans Meet

Written by on August 6, 2013 in Marine Life, Other News, Sharks

Earlier this year, we shared a post about the term “shark attack” and what it really means. Christopher Neff a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney, and Dr. Robert Hueter of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research in Florida suggest that the term is outdated and inaccurate.

“Not all shark ‘attacks’ are created equal,” Neff said. And we need to come up with new terms that are more specific and differentiate between sightings, encounters, bites, and fatal bites.

It’s true that not all shark ‘attacks’ are attacks, but humans and sharks do meet. What happens when they do and what can we do to avoid those interactions in the first place?

In a recent interview with National Geographic, Neff explains that reducing the risk of shark interactions happens on an individual level. Anyone planning on going to the beach should consider the weather, the time of day, the activity and other factors to assess their level or risk.

Sign at a Cape Cod beach last summer.

Sign at a Cape Cod beach last summer. Photo credit: rickpilot_2000 via photopin cc.

As great white shark sightings continue to increase around Cape Cod due to increasing seal populations, more and more people are nervous about swimming. Just last month, the Cape Cod National Seashore released shark safety guidelines for beachgoers. These guidelines (don’t swim near seals, don’t swim alone at dawn or dusk, etc…) mirror the advice of shark expert George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research and editor of the International Shark Attack File. In an article in Cape Cod Times, he suggests staying in groups, getting out of the water when seals are present and avoiding black wetsuits to reduce your odds of meeting a shark.

But if these guidelines aren’t enough to make you feel confident about getting in the water, you could always buy a wetsuit that makes you invisible. That’s right–an invisibility wetsuit. Scientists from the University of Western Australia worked with designers at Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS) to create two new wetsuits that hide the user from sharks. One is called the ‘cryptic’ wetsuit which allows the wearer to blend with the background colors of the water. The other is called the ‘warning’ wetsuit which does just the opposite: it makes the wearer highly visible by using high contrast patterns, which make the person appear nothing like traditional prey, but bold and dangerous instead.

The suits are still being tested, but the researchers are confident that the techniques will be applied to a wide range of water sport products in the near future. Watch the following video to see the suits:

To learn more, check out some of these posts:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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