Shark threat display There are three ways a shark can strike: the sneak attack, the hit-and-run and the bump-and-bite. The hit-and-run is the most common. It involve a single bite for defensive of investigative purposes rather than an attempt to kill. For example, a shark sees a human foot, thinks it’s a fish and bites but when it realizes its not the usual prey it swims away. Marine analyst Greg Pickering told Reuters, “Sharks are opportunist feeders. They hear is in the water. We should like a thrashing fish or animal in the water, and they react to that instinctively and go to take a bite.”
Worries about shark attacks are nothing new. On Captain James Cook's third voyage to the South Pacific in 1777, while ship passed through the channel at Rangiroa in the Tuamotus. His mid shipman James Trevenen wrote in his journal, "On every side of us swam sharks innumerable, and so vicious that they bit our oars and rudder, and I actually stuck my hanger [saber] into the back of one while he had the rudder in his teeth." In the 1960s NASA officials were even worried during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space missions when sharks were spotted circling floating spacecraft.┲
Many scientist feel the shark's bloodthirsty reputation is undeserved. Sharks generally eat fishes, mollusks and crustaceans. Few sharks hunt mammals, and normally they are not aggressive and shy away from men. One zoologist has gone as far as labeling them "chinless cowards."
Sharks killed an average of four to five people annually worldwide during the 2000s. An annual report by the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File found that an average of five people per year are killed by sharks, while fishing fleets kill up to 70 million sharks per year.
The odds of being attacked by a shark have been estimated at 1 in 100,000,000 and the chances of being killed by one is 1 in 300,000,000. Far more people die from bee stings, Christmas tree lights and bites from pigs. You are much more likely to die in your own bathtub or at the hands of your spouse than you are to die by the teeth of a shark. The year 2000 was a particularly nasty year for shark attacks: 11 people were killed worldwide. By contrasts about 1,000 people are struck by lightning each year in the United States alone. For every American killed by sharks 37 are killed by snakes and 45 are killed by pet dogs.
See Great White Sharks, Bull Sharks, Tiger Sharks and Grey Reef Sharks.
Website: International Shark Attack File of University of Florida and the Florida Museum of Natural History is kept by marine biologist George Burgess.
Websites and Resources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noaa.gov/ocean ; Smithsonian Oceans Portal ocean.si.edu/ocean-life-ecosystems ; Ocean World oceanworld.tamu.edu ; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute whoi.edu ; Cousteau Society cousteau.org ; Montery Bay Aquarium montereybayaquarium.org
Websites and Resources on Fish and Marine Life: MarineBio marinebio.org/oceans/creatures ; Census of Marine Life coml.org/image-gallery ; Marine Life Images marinelifeimages.com/photostore/index ; Marine Species Gallery scuba-equipment-usa.com/marine
Shark Attack Total Numbers Worldwide
Shark Attack Numbers Worldwide
On average sharks kill about 4 to 8 people worldwide each year. In contrast people kill more than 100 million sharks, skates and rays annually. That means for every man killed by a shark at least 12½ million sharks are killed by human beings.
Serious shark attacks worldwide number around 50 a year. There has never been more than a 100 reported shark attacks in a year. Overall, the 1990s has the highest report attack totals of any decade, with 536. The average number of fatalities between 2000 and 2007 was five a year. Many attacks go unreported though.
There were 60 unprovoked shark attacks (3 fatalities) in 2002, compared to 79 (5 fatalities) in 2001, 85 shark attacks (11 shark fatalities) in 2000, 58 in 1999, 54 in 1998, 56 (11 fatalities) in 1997, 36 (6 shark fatalities) in 1996, and 72 attacks in 1995. Two thirds of the attacks were in United States waters. Increases have attributed to more swimmers not more sharks. In the summer 2001, a big deal was made about shark attacks but that year there were fewer shark attacks than the year before.
There were 55 unprovoked attack, including four deaths, in 2003 and 61 unprovoked attacks, including seven deaths, in 2004. There was only one confirmed fatality in 2007 and that in New Caledonia in the South Pacific.
Shark attack risks
Shark Attacks By Region
About half of the world’s shark attacks are in the United States with a third of the world’s attack in Florida. In 2007 there were 50 shark attacks in the United States, compared to 13 in Australia. None were fatal. In the U.S., there is one shark fatality on average every two years. (More people die at the beach getting buried in holes they dig in the sand.) Sharks killed only five Americans from 1959 to 1990. Because Australia has a bigger sharks that attack humans it has a higher fatality rate. Between 1990 and 2007 there were 19 fatal shark attacks in Australia compared to four in Florida.
Shark strikes in U.S. waters were slightly up in the summer of 2011, with 7 each in May and June, and 3 in July. The number of shark attacks in the United States declined to 28 in 2009 from 41 in 2008, according to a University of Florida report. George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File at the university, said there were 61 attacks worldwide in 2009 and 60 in 2008. The United Stated led the world in the number of attacks,, followed by Australia, with 20, and South Africa, with 6. The number of attacks in the United States has fallen in each of the past three years, Mr. Burgess said. (AP)
In 2001, 82 percent of reported shark attacks occurred in North American waters, including 55 off the U.S., four in the Bahamas, two off Mexico and one off Cuba. Elsewhere, attacks occurred in South Africa (5), Australia (7), Brazil (3), Bahamas (four), Reunion Island (4), New Guinea (2), Tanzania (2), the Cape Verde Islands (1), the Marshall Islands (1), Mozambique (1), and New Zealand (1). In 2000 there were 11 deaths: three deaths were reported from Australia, two from Tanzania and one each in Fiji, Japan, New Caledonia, New Guinea and the United States.
In 1997 there were 34 shark attacks in United States; 5 in Australia; 4 in Brazil; 3 each in the Bahamas and South Africa; 2 each in Japan and New Guinea; and 1 each in Mexico, Fiji, Reunion Island and Vanuatu. In 1996 six shark attacks were fatal — two in Brazil and one each in Florida, South Africa, Australia and Mozambique. The big news was that South Africa had so many attacks. It had 17 shark attacks, compared to a yearly average of five over the past decade. Burgess said there were no reports of unusual oceanographic conditions, except for greater numbers of sardines, which could attract more sharks.
A number of attacks have occurred off the Brazilian port of Recife. In August 2011, two people were killed in the Seychelles and two were maimed in eastern Russia, causing panic and closing beaches in both places.
Shark deaths from 1850
2001: Summer of the Shark in the United States
Juliet Eilperin wrote in the Washington Post, In 2001, “ it seemed as if the nation was living a real-life version of "Jaws," in which every beach harbored a potential threat. It started on July 6, when 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast had his arm bitten off by a bull shark off Pensacola, Fla. The incident was both horrifying and dramatic: Arbogast's uncle pulled the shark to shore, allowing emergency medical personnel to get the boy's arm out of the animal's throat so it could later be reattached. Less than a month later, 36-year-old Krishna Thompson, a New Yorker, lost a leg in the Bahamas to a shark. [Source: Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, Aug. 7, 2011]
Labor Day weekend was particularly lethal. Ten-year-old David Peltier died on Sept. 2 when a shark claimed him off Virginia Beach. The next day, 28-year-old Sergei Zaloukaev was killed by a shark while swimming off Cape Hatteras, N.C.; his 23-year-old girlfriend, Natalia Slobodskaya, lost a foot in the same incident. As the human toll rose, the news media quickly dubbed 2001 the "Summer of the Shark."
Television correspondents rushed to the scenes of the attacks, where they chronicled the most minute developments, announcing even the non-news that emergency responders doing routine sweeps of the ocean had failed to find any signs of sharks.Pundits weighed in. As some emphasized that sharks pose a minimal threat to humans, Slate's Will Saletan questioned their analogies. "Let's get a few things straight. Gentle creatures don't devour human limbs. The bogeyman doesn't bleed children to death," Saletan wrote on Sept. 7, 2001.
Less than a week later, we forgot all about sharks. The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 took the lives of 2,753 people, a tragedy that dwarfed the impact of shark accidents not just that year, but in the half-century that preceded it. There were 76 unprovoked shark attacks globally in 2001, down from 85 the year before. Fatalities, meanwhile, dropped from 12 to five between 2000 and 2001.
Sharks That Attack People and Victims of Such Attacks
bull sharks like this
involved in some attacks
see separate article Because humans are about the same size or larger than most sharks and because humans are larger than normal shark prey, sharks generally swim around to check humans out but leave them alone, and swim away after a while. Studies have shown that sharks respond much more strongly to the blood of fish than they do to human blood.
Of the more than 368 shark species, only 21 species have attacked humans and only three attack with any frequency. They are great whites, tiger sharks and bull sharks. Other species that have attacked humans include and oceanic white tips, makos, lemons, duskies, blues, zambezi, hammerheads, Australian bronze whalers, silkies and porbeagle sharks. Each potential man-attacker has a different diet, different methods of attack and different behavioral patterns. ┲
In 2001, surfers were the recreational user group most often subjected to shark attacks, with 35 incidents, or 49 percent of cases. In 1998, surfers accounted for 69 percent of all shark attacks. The remaining attacks occurred equally against swimmers and divers, who accounted for 15 percent each. In the United States swimmers and waders were the most frequent victims at 46 percent, followed by surfers and windsurfers with 32 percent, divers and snorkelers at 18 percent, body surfers at 3 percent and people just entering the water at 1 percent.
Surfers are frequent victims because their kicking and splashing at the water's surface mimics the activities of a mullet or seals or some other food item of the shark.
Website: International Shark Attack File of University of Florida and the Florida Museum of Natural History is kept by marine biologist George Burgess.
Reasons for Shark Attacks
Shark attacks have risen somewhat in recent years in part because many more people are taking to the water for recreation and staying in the water for longer periods of time. Burgess said the increase was partly a result of increased intrusions on shark habitat by a worldwide population that spends more time in the water. [Source: UPI]
"Attacks are basically an odds game based on how many hours you are in the water," Burgess said. "Some of these attacks are beginning to pop up in far-flung corners of the Earth as tourists can afford to vacation in areas they wouldn't normally have gone to in the past...Unfortunately, lots of these tourists gleefully enter waters that natives — who learn over the years where to swim and not to swim — might choose not to go into.” [Ibid]
Sometimes it seems like attacks are increasing because more attacks are being reported. On reports that have come in from places like Kiribati, the Galapagos, Fiji and Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, Burgess said many victims help the International Shark Attack File by looking for information on shark attacks on the Internet and finding the file's Web site. He said they often e-mail their experiences.
Overall sharks attack are declining despite the fact that more people than ever are swimming in the sea. The number of fatal attack in the 20th century has dropped as result of advances in beach safety, medical treatment and public awareness of shark habits. Burgess said that some scientists believe that overfishing of sharks could be a factor. The drop could also be due to changing weather patterns or variations in currents, which could affect the number of fish available for sharks to feed on close to shore. There could also be fewer people in the water for sharks to bump into. "If there is a downturn in the economy, you're going to get (fewer) tourists going to the beaches and therefore less time spent in the water," Burgess told Reuters.
sign in Salt Rock, South Africa Sharks can often be found near beaches and it is not uncommon for a fishermen to catch large sharks within sight of swimmers. To avoid a confrontation with sharks, swimmers should stay out of the water around dawn and dusk, avoid murky water, steep drop offs and places where schools of fish have gathered, take off all jewelry and don't wear yellow (yellow is believed to attract sharks). You should never swim with your dog, a favorite target of sharks.
“If you see a shark, stay still, pull in your arms and make look yourself bigger. Peter Benchley told Newsday, “If you can get the courage—and I don’t know that I’d have the courage—to swim at it and show that you’re a large, capable, healthy critter and that you’re aggressive, nine time out of 10, it will go away. But the 10th time is the one you don’t want.”
If you are about to get attacked by a shark you can try a couple of things. First hit in the nose. Most of its sensitive sensory organs are located there, or rip at the gills or try to flip it over. Sharks go limp if you turn them upside down. Swimming in choppy water is another strategy; sharks, and crocodiles too, are supposed to shy away from white caps. ┡
Shark researcher George Burgess said. Burgess cautioned people not to swim alone, especially at dawn and dusk, and stay out of the water if schools of baitfish are close to shore. It is considered very dangerous to go in the water when a lot of bait fish are near the shore as happens around Daytona Beach Florida and Brisbane, Australia. The sharks are often swimming around and biting anything that moves. If humans enter the mix they may get bitten.
According to Steve Pike, editor the website wavescape the following simple rules should be followed by surfers to reduce the chance of shark attacks:
Don't surf at dawn or dusk
Don't surf near river mouths or in flood
Don't urinate in your wetsuit
Don't surf with a bleeding wound
Shark Protection, Sonar and Shark Nets
Shark net In Australia, lifeguards on towers and spotters in planes keep an eye out for sharks in water. A green flag on the lifeguard tower means everything is safe. Red and white flag means a shark has been spotted. If someone is attacked rescues are made with helicopters and the famous Austalian lifeguard rowboats.
Many beaches in Australia and South Africa are protected from sharks with nets. Before nets were installed Australia it lead the world in reported shark attacks. In the seven years before nets were installed there were ten positively identified shark attacks, seven of them fatal, and least ten probable attacks. Since the nets were first laid in 1937 there hasn't been one shark fatality on a netted beach.
The same can not be said for the sharks and other marine life. They become entangled and inevitably die from suffocation. In Queensland alone 20,500 sharks of all kinds were killed over a 16 year period. During that same time 468 endangered dugongs, 317 porpoises, 2,654 sea turtles, and 10,889 rays were also killed. Some environmentalist advocated getting rid of the nets on the moral ground that the sea is the realm of sharks and other sea creatures and people are the intruders.┡
In Perth, Australia, low-flying single-engine planes are used to scan 50 kilometer (31 miles) section of beach. They are linked by radio to beach-based lifesavers, who also look out for sharks. In November 2000, after a 49-year-old father of three was killed by a massive great white shark authorities Perth considered investing in a multi-million dollar sonar system to detect movements of big fish through sonar beams. The system, developed by a Canadian company, is regarded as environmentally-friendly than nets and could be used in conjunction with beach aerial patrols..
Shark Protection Devises and Substances
Devises on the market that to protect people from sharks include cages for divers; survival sacks for downed pilots; steel mesh suits; and a devise called a Shark Shield, which emits an electronic field intended to repel sharks. Some divers protect themselves from sharks with "bangsticks," devises powered with a cartridge from a.357 magnum handgun that can kill a shark if placed on the predator's head.
Shark repellents that give an electric shock to sharks that get too close have proven to be very effective. During the 2000 Sydney Olympics, to make sure triathletes who swam in Sydney Harbor during the swimming portion of the race they weren't attacked by sharks, they were accompanied by divers outfit with devices called PODs, which drive off sharks by producing electrical charges that irritate sensory receptors in the shark. POD stands for Protective Underwater Device.
Scientists have also tried dyes, chemicals and bubble curtains. In World War II, U.S. Navy pilots were given a “Shark Chaser” made with a black dye made from copper acetate to use if they were shot down in the sea. It proved not be very effective, In 1972, University of Maryland shark expert Eugenie Clark discovered a Red Sea fish, the Moses sole, that secreted a milky liquid that repelled sharks. Promising repellant were never developed because it was realized that the substance had to be shot directly into a shark’s mouth to be effective.
One repellant that shows great promise is A-2, a clear, yellowish substance derived from extracts of dead sharks collected at New Jersey fish markets and piers. Fishermen have long noted that sharks tend to stay clear of dead sharks. In tests, sharks excited by blood is released in their tank scatter when A-2 is introduced. As of 2004, the repellant had proved to be effective with Caribbean reef, black nose, nurse and lemon sharks but had not been tested with great white, mako and oceanic white tip sharks. A-2 seems to trigger a chemical messenger in sharks that prompts a fright reaction. A dose of 120 milliliters is enough to scare off sharks and keep them away for two hours if a couple of drops are added every minute, The repellant seems to only affect sharks and not other fish. It can also bring mesmerize sharks—put into a stupor by being placed on their backs—out of their trance.
Shark Attacks in World War II and the Indianapolis Story
Some of the most brutal shark attacks occurred during World War II when survivors of torpedoed ships and crashed airplanes were gobbled up in mass attacks. One Canadian plane that crashed in the sea was labeled unapproachable by a rescue team who arrived within an hour of the mishap because of "too many aggressive sharks."
The 1945, at the end of World War II the destroyer the USS Indianapolis was sunk in the Philippines Sea by a Japanese torpedo. The incident was recounted in a story told by Richard Shaw in the film Jaws . The ship sunk in 12 minutes. Of the 1,200 on aboard 880 went into the water. It was five days before help showed up. Survivors were harassed bitten and killed by hundreds of sharks. Only 317 people survived. Half the corpses pulled for the water had been eaten by sharks. However, most victims died of injuries incurred during the explosion, drowning, exposure of dehydration not shark attacks. Those that were eaten were likely already dead when the sharks began attacking them.
The story was recalled in Ocean of Fear , a two-hour program shown for the first time on the Discovery Channel in 2007. In many cases sharks were least of their worries of survivors as they bobbed in the sea for five days, without food and water. To keep their faces from blistering in the sun they dabbed split oil on themselves. They made makeshift visors to keep their corneas from burning and pleaded with desperate comrades not to drink the salt water. Some took their own lives after succumbing to delusions, madness and desperation.
Whitetip reef shark
Whitetip Shark Attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
In December 2010, The Guardian reported” “A 70-year-old German tourist died after being mauled by a shark off the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh today – the latest in a series of shark attacks in the Red Sea over the past five days. Egypt's Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS) sent an urgent message to its members in Sharm el-Sheikh, instructing them to clear the water. [Source: Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian, December 5 2010]
The attack was thought to have been carried out by a oceanic white tip shark. Attacks by oceanic white tip sharks are extremely rare and shark attacks of any kind are very unusual in the Red Sea. According to security officials quoted by the Associated Press, the German woman's arm was severed in the attack and she died within minutes. The week before three Russians and a Ukrainian were badly injured. The Egyptian authorities had said they were confident that the capture and killing of two sharks had eliminated the threat to swimmers. A 48-hour ban on entering the water had been lifted yesterday but all watersports, except for diving sites, have been closed again following attack on the German.
Jochen Van Lysebettens, manager of the Red Sea Diving College at the resort, said the latest victim was a regular guest at the luxury Hyatt Regency hotel. He told Sky News: "The woman was just swimming to stay in shape. Suddenly there was a scream of help and a lot of violence in the water. The lifeguard got her on the reef and he noticed she was severely wounded." Van Lysebettens said 40 diving instructors had been out in the waters in recent days to check for sharks after the initial catch. "They found nothing," he said. "Based on that the authorities opened the dive sites again and opened the watersports activities again."
He thought the same shark had been responsible for all the attacks. He suggested it may have been drawn to the coast by dead sheep left in the water. "I have no idea why this shark is behaving so aggressively," he continued. "This must have been triggered by something in the past. Unfortunately in this case he is now looking at snorkellers."
A British couple tonight told the Guardian they were in a group of snorkellers that had to leave the water hurriedly on Saturday after a large shark circled round them. Christina Stafel-Collins, from Broughton, north Lincolnshire, said: "It was definitely an oceanic whitetip. We saw it so close-up. My husband is six foot and it was loads larger than him … I am so upset this woman has died. They should have shut the beaches ."
Her husband, Terry Collins, who was in the army for 24 years, said the shark had acted aggressively. "It was about three metres long. I was about 10 metres behind everyone else. I saw it come out of the depths and it went towards our leader. It circled him and began circling the group. "It was deep grey and was that close I could see electric blue fish swimming in front of it. It was circling lazily but with intent," he said. The boats that brought them to the area were on the other side of a reef the group had been circling. Terry said when he raised his head he saw people on the board shouting warnings. The swimmers had to make their way to the reef and rested there before swimming one by one across about 100 metres of open water to the boats. "We tried to keep the splashing down."
Last week's victims were thought to have been attacked by an oceanic whitetip shark, which rarely swims close to the shore. Experts blamed tourists for throwing food into the water to lure fish in order to get a better close-up view. "It is clear from our initial discussions with shark behavioural experts that this highly unusual spate of attacks by an oceanic whitetip shark was triggered by an activity, most probably illegal fishing or feeding in the area," Gabr said in a statement on Friday.
Conservationists from the South Sinai National Park caught two sharks on Thursday following the earlier attacks. The animals were dissected to examine the contents of their stomachs, although the results of the autopsy procedures were not released. Tourists who witnessed one of last week's attacks, near Tiran beach, were shaken by the experience. Speaking before today's attack, many said they would not return to the water even if the authorities gave the all-clear. "I was very close by," Uri, a tourist from Moscow, said. "I will be spending the rest of my holiday sitting on the beach."
Tiger shark like this involved in some attacks, see separate article
Shark Kills Man on Honeymoon in Front of His Wife in Seychelles
In August 2011, AFP reported: “A shark savaged a British tourist as his newlywed wife watched from the beach in the Seychelles, the second holidaymaker to die in such an attack this month, police said on Wednesday. The tourist was hauled onto a boat and taken to shore following the attack but died from blood loss after the shark ripped off his arm and tore into his leg, police said. [Source: AFP, August 18, 2011]
"Ian Redmond, a 30-year old British man, was on honeymoon with his wife when he was attacked by a shark while diving at Anse Lazio," a police statement said. "The shark tore off his arm and bit a part of his left leg," it added. His wife was on the beach - a famous beauty spot hailed for its white sand on the archipelago's Praslin island - and watched helplessly as her husband was mauled by the shark. "Two people who were on a boat not far from the attack tried to rescue him," the statement added.
The Seychelles Maritime Safety Authority issued a swimming ban at the Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette beaches, while surveillance patrols launched a hunt for the killer shark. "Fishermen will be undertaking continuous patrols , research and fishing activities in order to capture the shark," the maritime authority said in a statement. It said it would also reinforce a ban of "dumping of waste from yachts and other boats, which have been reported in some of these areas ," which some fear could have attracted sharks.
According to Sky News, Houghton was on the beach as Redmond snorkeled 20 yards from shore, when a six-foot shark attacked him. The Daily Mail reports that beachgoers heard cries for help, and a vacationer in a small boat pulled Redmond in and took him to shore. An American tourist told the news organization that someone saw a fin sticking out above the water. According to the tourist, a woman then ran over, screaming, "That’s my husband! We were just married."
Chantal Andre, a nearby restaurant employee who reportedly accompanied the wife to the hospital, told the Daily Mail that Houghton seemed to be "in total shock." The Evening Standard reports that the couple married in an "idyllic" wedding and were on the second week of their honeymoon. They have known each other for eight years, and have spent the past two preparing to move into a cottage together. Redmond's father, Stephen, told the Standard, "It's devastating. The last time we saw them they were so happy."
A shark attacked another man in the same area earlier this month, and the area's director for tourism is questioning whether it is the same "rogue shark," according to the Daily Mail. Michel Gardette, a Praslin development official told the news source, "I have been diving for the last 40 years and I have never encountered any problems. Sharks are actually very rare because they are hunted for their meat and fins."
Great White shark like this involved in some attacks, see separate article
Shark Attacks in the Russian Far East
Michael Schwirtz wrote in the New York Times, “When a young man lost both his arms this week in the waters off Russia’s east coast, officials and residents initially had trouble believing what had happened. But a day later, when a teenager’s legs were ripped up in the same waters, all doubt vanished. In a region more accustomed to threats from bears, the culprit appears to be a man-eating shark — possibly more than one. [Source: Michael Schwirtz, New York Times, August 18, 2011]
The authorities have temporarily banned swimming at several beaches in the area, coastal Primorsky Krai, along the Sea of Japan. It was unclear what type of shark attacked in either case, though witnesses and some scientists were leaning toward a great white. Large sharks have been sighted in the region only rarely, scientists said, and attacks until now were unheard of. “They said it was a shark, but I didn’t believe it,” said Andrei Tarasov, who witnessed the first attack and was interviewed by Russia’s Vesti television. “I thought they were mistaken until I saw the guy who was attacked. Then there was no doubt.”
The first victim, a 25-year-old computer programmer, had been out for an evening swim with his wife on Wednesday at a popular vacation spot near Russia’s border with North Korea. The two, Denis and Polina Udovenko, were aiming for a small rock formation known locally as Yearning Heart Island. “It was only about 300 feet,” Ms. Udovenko said, according to the Interfax news agency. “About halfway there, Denis noticed something in the water and screamed, ‘Swim faster, it’s a shark.’ ” “He beat it on the nose, and it heaved him up and then down,” she said. “Then the shark threw him to the surface.”They were hauled in by boaters. Mr. Udovenko lost a considerable amount of blood and both arms below the elbow, but he survived, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
The second victim, Valery Sidorovich, 16, was attacked about 30 miles away on Thursday. Video images of his rescue that were broadcast on Russian television showed him being taken from a boat on a stretcher, his legs swaddled in bloody bandages. Lateer, the Russian news media reported a third attack, citing local residents, though officials did not immediately confirm it.
Dmitri Pilipchak, a spokesman for the local branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry, said that there had not been one recorded case of a shark attack in the region until now. “These are the first,” he said. In fact, some scientists said they were probably the first in Russian waters in recent history. Witnesses gave varying descriptions of the shark, putting its size at 6 to 12 feet long. After reviewing the accounts, several scientists said they believed it was probably a great white. Smaller sharks, like the salmon shark and the spiny dogfish, are commonly found in the Sea of Japan, but they do not typically attack humans, said Konstantin Zgurovsky, the marine program coordinator for the Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund.
While great whites have a very large range and are found all over the globe (not to mention scary movies), they have rarely been sighted in the Sea of Japan, said Dmitri Astakhov, a shark expert at the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Marine Sciences in Moscow. That body of water is home to seals and other shark prey, but not in sufficient densities to sustain large sharks. A hungry great white, lacking its typical prey, Dr. Astakhov said, “could certainly have attacked a human.” (For the same reason, overfishing is often blamed for increasing the likelihood of attacks on humans around the world.)
One reason the two victims may have survived, he said, is that sharks actually find the taste of humans off-putting. “A big enough shark can instantly rip off a limb, but as soon as it tastes the meat and realizes that it is not right, it will immediately leave it behind,” Dr. Astakhov said. “Victims are often injured, but not killed.” Another draw for a great white might be water temperature. The waters in the region have been several degrees higher than normal, making a more attractive environment for great whites, according to Mr. Zgurovsky.
Russians’ blasé attitude toward danger is a source of national pride, and despite the ban on swimming, local news media reported that beachgoers continued to take to the water.The local branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry, perhaps expecting that many would flout the ban, posted a shark attack survival guide on its Web site. “If a shark tries to attack you, fight it off; try to hit it in the eyes and gills,” read one advisory. “Remember,” read another, “panic could lead to tragic results.”
Shark Attacks in the Bahamas
In August 2001, a Wall Street banker had to have his leg amputated after being attacked by a shark during a weekend trip to the Bahamas. The victim, 36-year-old Krishna Thompson, became critically ill and lost so much blood that doctors feared he suffered brain damage. No one knows what breed of shark attacked but doctors told his wife that the bite marks indicated that it was a large one. [Source: Las Vegas Sun]
Thompson, who was celebrating his tenth wedding anniversary, left his wife in bed while he headed for the beach in the Grand Bahama resort of Our Lucaya in Freeport. As he swam he felt the shark bite him and try to pull him under. He punched and kicked his way free and, bleeding badly from his mauled leg, dragged himself ashore and collapsed in front of bystanders who were struggling to help him. Before he lost consciousness he scrawled his room number in the sand with his finger. His wife, Ave Maria, said: “He knew that was the only way they were going to find me in time.”
“He was just swimming off the beach when a shark grabbed his leg and started pulling him down, Ave Maria Thompson, said. “He kept punching and punching. He has cuts on his hands because of that.” After being given a blood transfusion at a local hospital he was flown to Miami, where surgeons amputated his left leg just above the knee.
A few weeks later a shark bit the leg of an American man who was snorkeling with his wife near Grand Bahama. The man was treated for injuries to his left leg at Rand Memorial Hospital. His leg was not severed.
Diving with Sharks and Shark Tourism
In recent years shark-feeding dives have become popular in many places. On these dives, dive operators feed the sharks so divers can have the experience of getting close to these large predators when they are feeding. According to sources in the diving industry, about 100,000 people take part in these dives annually at 300 sites in 40 countries. to International Shark Attack File there had been about two dozen injuries reported worldwide involving divers participating in shark-feeding dives.
Some places have banned the practice of shark feeding by diving operators on the grounds it may dangerously alter the animals natural behavior. George Burgess, the director of the International Shark Attack Study at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said: "You wouldn't go to Africa and throw raw meat at a lion." [Source: Miami Herald]
In Florida, most of the species attracted are large but harmless nurse sharks, lured by buckets of bait. Coastal authorities fear that the diving trips will make sharks associate people with food and that the organizers would be helpless if more dangerous species arrived. Stephen Picardi, a Florida diver who is campaigning for tougher laws, said: "It is only a matter of time before something horrible happens." [Ibid]
See Tiger Sharks, Great White Sharks
In 2003 a tough Icelandic fish boat captain grabbed a 300-kilogram shark with his bare hands and killed it. The shark was in shallow water heading towards his crew which were cleaning fish in water filled with fish blood and guts. The captain grabbed the shark by the tail and pulled it on land and stabbed it with a knife.
In February 2008, an Austrian tourist diving without a cage in chummed waters in the Bahamas was bitten in the leg by a bull shark. He died of blood loss the next day. It was the first death attributed to shark feeding.
Swimming with Sharks
US Navy divers swimming with harmless
sand sharks in an aquarium Joe Mozingo wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Chris Lowe, a marine biology professor who runs the shark laboratory at Cal State Long Beach, has free-dived with tiger sharks in Hawaii and found it exhilarating. "If you're in the water and see a shark, that should be an awesome experience," he said. He conceded that seeking to swim with tiger and great white sharks, among a few other species, is dangerous. [Source: Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2011]
"Look, people do a lot of crazy things," he said. "They go hang gliding. They climb mountains. My philosophy is just know what you're getting into. Somebody might get bitten. Just like somebody might fall off the mountains."
Lowe said it is still not clear when the creatures will get aggressive and why, but that scientists are learning from the interactions. "As people spend more and more time in the water, either free-diving or using re-breathing technology, we're going to get more insight into shark behavior."
Dan Cartamil, a postdoctoral researcher at the Graham Shark Lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, isn't as certain. "It's really risky and carries the risk of backfiring. A lot of these people who play with fire do get burned."
William Winram, who swims with great white sharks, exudes none of the messianic mania of some self-proclaimed animal whisperers, like Timothy Treadwell, who spent 13 summers communing with grizzly bears in Alaska before being eaten by one in 2003. But he watched "Grizzly Man," the Werner Herzog documentary on Treadwell, in part to see how he himself might be perceived. When the Daily Mail of London ran some of his friend Buyle's photos online, there were plenty of comments like: "Idiots, they are lunch just waiting to happen."
Winram says he studies every situation before he jumps into the water and manages the risk by always having others watching his back. But he knows the hazards; adventures, by definition, are fraught with them. Even without sharks, free-diving often involves pushing the human body to an invisible outer line, and plenty of people have died crossing it.
Image Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noaa.gov/ocean ; Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Mostly National Geographic articles. Also the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Natural History magazine, Discover magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated March 2011