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Real Shark Attacks Should Not Be Taken Lightly, Despite Hollywood Movies

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

The thought of being bitten by an animal while enjoying a swim is frightening. The fear factor is also one of the reasons why movies like Jaws and Open Water remain so popular. It's hard to not think about sharks when you’re swimming in the ocean because the thought of a shark attack is the stuff of nightmares.

Despite the popularity of big shark-related movies, unprovoked shark attacks are rare. According to the Wildlife Museum in Tucson, Arizona, you are more likely to die in a car accident than from a shark attack.

Shark Attacks Are Rare and Fatalities Are Even Rarer

According to the Florida Museum in Gainesville, most attacks occur to surfers and not to swimmers or waders close to shore. “On average, there are only six fatalities that are attributable to unprovoked shark attacks worldwide, each year,” the museum’s website reports.

“The somber truth is that the world’s shark populations are actually in decline, or exist at greatly reduced levels, as a result of over-fishing and habitat loss,” the website adds.

In 2017, there were 53 shark attacks in the U.S., or three more attacks than in 2016, with no fatalities. Australia ranked second with 14 attacks and one fatality. South Africa reported two non-fatal attacks in 2017, compared to the usual average of four.

Experts say that as populations grow, so too will human and shark interactions. Another theory is that increased documentation and media coverage could also account for the increase in the number of reported shark attacks.

French Long-Distance Swimmer Encounters Sharks, Not Attacked

Ben Lecomte, a long-distance swimmer from France, set out at the beginning of June to be the first person to swim across the Pacific Ocean. Lecomte was joined by a team of researchers to help him make the trip and document it on a blog.

Despite being in the ocean for an estimated 8 1/2 hours a day for the past 40 days, he has had only two encounters with sharks. Lecomte was not attacked in either of those encounters. This would seem to prove that unprovoked shark attacks do not happen often, even during long-distance swimming in an open ocean.

Despite the fear many people have about being bitten or killed by a shark, such attacks remain a relatively low risk. However, everyone should be aware of the risk and plan accordingly. Two tips to remember are: Stay out of the water at dawn and at dusk, and never swim in known shark feeding areas.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.