Swimmer Beware

One of the best weeks of summer is upon us, SHARK WEEK! There is no need to boycott New Jersey beaches, but it doesn't hurt to get informed!
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The sun is blazing and with this heat wave amongst us, the Jersey shore is the place to be. The water has been fluctuating from cooler temperatures to warmer ones, but in this heat any temperature will suffice. As you run atop the fire-like sand, you feel a sense of relief when the chilling water finally grazes your toes. As you float over calm waves and dive under forceful white caps, you look around to see children splashing without a care in the world. If only the soundtrack to “Jaws” started playing to give us some kind of warning, da-da, da-da, dadadadadada, that a shark is on the prowl! Well this week you could watch it all unfold on the Discovery Channel during one of the best weeks of summer, SHARK WEEK!

What if sharks could comment on our fascination with them? Would they be honored to know there is a whole week dedicated to them? We have one day dedicated to great leaders of this country, one day to men who have given their lives for this country, and no more than two days dedicated to certain holidays. So what’s so special about sharks that have marine biologists dedicating their lives to new discoveries, photographers shooting for years to get the perfect picture, and Discovery Channel showing documentaries and reenactments in a weeklong shark week extravaganza? It must be the mystery that these creatures possess. And let’s not forget about their rugged, intimidating physical appearance. The steel gray, cold to the touch, massive body, with lifeless, black abyss eyes, and rigid teeth of armor that could shred the human body to pieces, may intrigue people to tune in since they just might come in passing with one.

Especially once the bone chilling, infamous “Jaws”, a 1975 American horror-thriller film, directed by Steven Spielberg, which was based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name, came out. It left people frightened, professionals wanting more, and turned these oceanic fish into man-eating predators. The great white however became famous and decided to turn fiction into reality. One month after “Jaws” was released, reports were made about real shark attacks in California, by a 17-foot great white and later in New Jersey at Sandy Hook.

Now the shark could argue that he did not intentionally attack these humans, or he could instead support Victor Coppleson’s theory. During the years from 1916 to 1933, the Australian surgeon, Doctor Victor M. Coppleson developed the “Rogue Theory”. This theory proposes that some sharks hunt down humans and intentionally attack them as food. This theory can be further reviewed on the Discovery Channel, which airs a show called ‘Rogue Sharks’. However, there is not enough substantial evidence to prove that rogue sharks truly exist. 

On the other hand, others, like marine biologists, argue that they are not interested in people but in bate. They dispute that these fantastic creatures have interacted with humans, numerous times, in the past and have not caused any harm or threat to them. What we have to remember is that we are entering their domain and if they feel harmed or threatened, natural instinct will take over, as it does for anyone, and their first thought will be to protect themselves. These sharks are smart creatures, but we need to understand that the only way for them to determine if something is edible (an animal) or not is by using their mouth. Once they sink their jagged teeth into human flesh, realize it is not a seal, sea lion, etc., they then release the body part and usually retreat. Also, the silhouette of a human on a surfboard, from their perspective down below, is similar to a floating seal. They sometimes get confused and attack, only to find out that this is not what the shadow had appeared to be. Could you blame them?

Unfortunately for us, the shark is using the area and people just happen to be there. Whether you are bumped, circled, or just see a shark, it is scary enough. No matter what you believe, these living things are out there and you never know how the situation will play out. Even in the clearest of waters, their hunter instinct and jetting reflexes could have you locked between their rigid teeth and leave you prying at their incredible jaw strength, in a matter of seconds. When the water is murky, their eyesight becomes blurry and there is a greater chance that they may mistakenly attack humans. You can think of it as being in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Luckily, Jersey people don’t scare easily, so shark week won’t necessarily stop them from swimming in open waters. And if we learned anything from Disney Pixar’s, “Finding Nemo”, we would hope that sharks, like the character Bruce, continue to live by the motto: “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food”.  And we could only hope that the same goes for humans!

So go ahead and enjoy your summer, be amazed and informed by shark week, and as a precaution always make sure someone else is a little further out in the water than you are…just kidding!

20 Helpful Tips to Avoid a Shark Attack

(Straight from Discovery Channel)

20. Steer clear of dolphins and seabirds. They may not only attract sharks, but also often seek the same prey.

19. Skip swimming after heavy rains, which may move some freshwater fish, including sharks, into areas they would not otherwise frequent.

18. Sharks sometimes get stuck in lagoons and small bays during low tide, so be careful when swimming in such areas at these times.

17. Avoid diving from boats but, if you must, refrain from doing so at night and be sure to carefully scan the surrounding water beforehand.

16. Some sharks are very small and resemble tropical fish. Avoid touching fish around you, as you could find your hand in a tiny, yet well-toothed, mouth.

15. Pay attention to fish swimming patterns. If fish start to school or dart away, chances are a shark or other potential predator is nearby.

14. Fishing boats and anglers from shore can attract sharks looking for an easy seafood meal, so refrain from swimming near them.

13. The splash of a dog paddling is like a dinner bell for sharks. Do not take your pet with you in waters where there is even a remote chance of encountering a shark. 

12. Splashing and other erratic movements signal distress and can alert sharks to your presence. Try to keep strokes and kicks smooth and even.

11. Got an uneven tan? Avoid swimming in open water because skin color contrasts seem to attract sharks, resembling color variations found on fish.

10. Brightly colored swimwear, colorful surfboards and shiny jewelry mimic natural fish bling, so save your flashy gear for terrestrial pursuits.

9.   Mouths of rivers, channels, deep drops and areas between sandbars tend to attract sharks. Skip swimming in these places, as well as far from shore.

8.   Avoid swimming in dirty, murky water. It can impair your field of vision and that of sharks, too, increasing the chances of an encounter.

7.   If you have a bleeding cut, an exposed wound or are a menstruating woman, do not swim in open water. Blood and human waste attract sharks.

6.   Sharks are creatures of habit. Do not swim in areas where a shark attack has recently occurred, since the same shark, or others, may still frequent the spot. 

5.   Try to swim on sunny, clear days. Foggy mornings and dusk may cause a shark to confuse you with prey. 

4.   Don’t swim in waters known to be frequented by sharks. Consult with lifeguards and other authorities for more specific regional information. 

3.   Swim in a group or at least be sure to have a partner with you. Stay alert as to what is going on in the surrounding water environment. 

2.   Avoid looking like a seal. Reclining on a surfboard and wearing a wetsuit and fins can give you a seal’s silhouette from a shark’s perspective below. 

1.   Think like a shark. If you see lots of fish or seals, chances are that sharks could be around and could confuse you with dinner.

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