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Tips to Avoid Getting Bit by a Shark

 Yannis Papastamatiou - Associate Professor Biological Sciences; Institute of Environment at Florida International University
FIU - picture of Yannis Papastamatiou; and shark pictures - By LittleJerry - Own work, Wikipedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
Yannis Papastamatiou - Associate Professor Biological Sciences; Institute of Environment at Florida International University

Treasure Coast - Wednesday May 17, 2023: Last weekend’s shark attack in the water off North Jetty Beach in Fort Pierce that injured a 13-year-old girl is yet another reminder to be aware when you’re in the water.

To get some tips on how to avoid getting bit, we spoke with Yannis Papastamatiou, an Associate Professor of Biological Science at Florida International University who is considered one of the world's foremost experts on shark behavior.

“The chances of getting bitten is extremely low, but its never going to be zero," said Papastamatiou. "The only way to be sure you’re never going to be bitten is to never go in the water.” He knows that staying out of the water is not an option for most Floridians, and visitors, but there are steps you can take to avoid sharks.

First of all, be aware of your surroundings. “Is it a low visibility area? If its low visibility then your less likely to see a shark. Is it close to a river outlet? Has it been recently raining? Often if there’s been heavy rainfall and you got a river outlet, you’ll have dead things being washed out and we often see sharks hanging out because there’s a lot of fish there.”

Avoid areas where people are fishing, the bait also attracts sharks. Don't splash around while your in the water, its what fish in distress do, and sharks take advantage of that.
The time of day can also be a factor. “A lot of sharks, optimal time for hunting is going to vary, but a lot of them it will be round about sunset, or sometimes even at night. But that doesn’t mean to say that they’re not active during the day, it just means that chances go up during certain periods.”

Never go in the water alone, swim with others, and don't wander to far away from shore. Sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual.

However it's also important to remember that we are not shark food, if attacked, its usually one bite, says Papastamatiou, and they’re gone.

“Very rarely when we look at shark bite victims to we see people getting eaten. It has happened, but it’s extremely rare. So most of the time you’re looking at one bite. That can be a really bad bite, a fatal bite, but very rarely do you see someone actually being consumed. So, extremely rare that we would actually appear on their menu.”