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Keven Moore: Shark Week coming up; just how dangerous are they and how to protect yourself

Every summer, the Discovery Channel stokes my fear of sharks, by airing their much-anticipated program called “Shark Week.”

Shark Week is an annual, week-long TV programming block which features which will air this July 28 to Aug. 4.

It not only features celebrities such as Adam Devine, Damon Wayans, Jr., and Joel McHale swimming with sharks, Josh Duhamel stars as a capsized captain in grave danger in the first-ever Shark Week original scripted film.

Shark Week originally premiered on July 17, 1988. Featured annually, in July and/or early August, it was originally devoted to conservation efforts and correcting misconceptions about sharks.

Photo/Florida Museum

Over time, it grew in popularity and became a hit on the Discovery Channel. Since 2010, it has been the longest-running cable television programming event in history and is broadcast in over 72 countries, and is promoted heavily via social media.

The 8-day event has developed a cult following of viewers eager to learn more about the oceans’ shark species and scientists’ latest discoveries. If you’ve been looking forward to Shark Week 2019 since Shark Week 2018 ended last summer, here’s what you need to know so that you’re well-prepared for it to return to your television soon.

According to sharkworld.com there are 440 different species of sharks in the world today swimming in the world’s oceans. They range in size from the length of a human hand to more than 39 feet (12 meters) long; half of all shark species are less than one meter (or about 3 feet) long. They are found in just about every kind of ocean habitat, including the deep sea, open ocean, coral reefs, and under the Arctic ice.

But as for me and my generation, we were all scarred for life as children as we were all conditioned to fear these bloodthirsty predators after Steven Spielberg set in motion what would become one of humanity’s greatest fears when he released the movie Jaws in 1975. For many of us, the movie altered our desire to swim in the ocean, as this lifelong phobia still haunts many of us every time we visit a beach.

Today as a risk management and safety professional I am not as terrorized by the thought of sharks, but I also still don’t go very far into the ocean when I am vacationing on a beach. My viewpoint is why tempt fate, right?

But just how dangerous are sharks?

Well according to Floridamuseum.ufl.edu in 2018 the worldwide total of 130 shark attacks with 66 confirmed unprovoked attacks 34 provoked attacks and nine boat attacks. In the prior five-year period (2013-2017) unprovoked shark attacks average of 84 incidents annually. The U.S. had the largest number of unprovoked attacks, with one fatal incident in 2018.

Consistent with long-term trends, the United States experienced the most unprovoked shark attacks in 2018 with 32 confirmed cases. This is markedly lower than the 53 incidents that occurred in the U.S. in 2017. The 32 cases represent 48% of the worldwide total. This is a decline from 2017, which saw 60% of the worldwide unprovoked attacks in the U.S. Only one shark attack in the United States resulted in a fatality.

For decades, Florida has topped the charts for worldwide shark attacks and the trend continued in 2018. Florida’s 16 cases represent 50% of the U.S. total. Elsewhere in the U.S., unprovoked shark attacks occurred in Hawaii, [3], North Carolina [3], South Carolina[3], Massachusetts [2], and New York [2]. Single incidents occurred in California, Georgia, and Texas. Significantly, the United States had one fatal incident in 2018 that occurred in Massachusetts. This was the first fatality in the United States since 2015 and the first fatal incident in Massachusetts since 1936.

However the fact of the matter is that shark attacks are extremely rare — humans are at greater risk of dying from a bee sting, dog bite, snake bite, bear attacks, or being struck by lightning or flying in an airplane.
They are not the bloodthirsty predators that we all envision but the more humans that go into the sea, the more human-shark interactions will occur.

The number of human-shark interactions is strongly correlated with time spent by humans in the sea. As the human population continues to expand and as interest in outdoor aquatic recreational activities increases, the incidence of shark attacks is expected to rise.

When you enter the ocean, the rules of the land do not apply, and you have entered the aquatic world where the rules and risk all change.

Here are some rules to follow to avoid or reduce your chances of a shark attack:

Photo/Florida Museum

 Avoid going into the ocean. That is the only sure way to reduce your risks for a shark attack.

 Avoid vacation on a beach in Florida. Given the amount of coast-line that this state offers vacationers and the number of people that visit beaches, the law of probability for a shark attack increases. But considering that nearly half of all unprovoked shark attacks occur in FL, you can reduce your risk by 50% by avoiding this vacation destination.

 Always swim in a group. Sharks most often attack lone individuals.

 Don’t wander too far from shore or at a place where you are away from assistance.

 Avoid the water at night, dawn or dusk.

 Don’t enter the water if bleeding.

 Don’t wear shiny jewelry.

 Don’t go into waters containing sewage, as it attracts bait fishes, which in turn attract sharks.

 Avoid waters being fished and those with lots of bait fishes. Look out for diving seabirds, which are good indicators of such activities.

 Don’t enter the water if sharks are present.

 Avoid an uneven tan and brightly colored clothing, as sharks see contrast well.

 Erratic movements can attract sharks, so don’t splash a lot, and keep pets out of the water.

 Use care near sandbars or steep drop-offs — favorite hangouts for sharks.

 Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks.

 Don’t try to touch a shark if you see one!

Be Safe My Friends

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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