The Gulf of Mexico: Florida’s Shark Tank
Do the sharks in the Gulf worry you? They shouldn’t and they usually don’t concern people until the news media swarm in to sensationalize the occasional attack. I’ve even heard of well-meaning people from Indiana who came down and started catching sharks, reasoning that if they culled the herd, there would be fewer attacks. That sounds reasonable to someone from a landlocked state, I suppose. It would probably work, too, if we didn’t have more sharks than Midwesterners.
Shark bites aren’t a common occurrence, despite the media jumping on every sensational story. Millions swim every day without incident. In our area, there have been exactly 4 bites since 1986. Of course, that’s little comfort if you happen to be one of the four.
Humans are not a shark’s food of choice and most people bitten by a shark find that the shark quickly releases them when they realize they’re not a fish.
Bull sharks, however, are aggressive toward humans but fortunately for those of us who live along the Gulf, they tend to prefer the waters of the Atlantic.
There are ways to minimize even the slight chance of being attacked. No, I’m not going to tell you to stay out of the water, although I DO like that billboard sign that says “No sharks in a Blue Aqua swimming pool!”
The first thing to remember is to avoid swimming at sunset and sunrise. This is when fish eat and the sharks follow the fishies. Don’t swim near fishermen, either. Sharks are attracted to the smell of bait. Take off shiny jewelry and you might want to rethink that shimmery swimsuit, as well as bright colors, all of which remind Mr. Shark of fish scales. Swim in guarded areas. A lifeguard on top of a life station can see for quite a distance and sharks aren’t that hard to spot in gulf waters. If a flag goes up, get out of the water. Sharks can smell one drop of blood a literal mile away. Monthly cycles and open wounds should be carefully considered. Thrashing about in water can mimic a wounded fish, so stop jumping around and acting like a tourist.
Personally, I’m more worried about stingrays than I am about a shark bite, which is less likely to happen than being struck by lightning. So I do the “stingray shuffle” as I wade through water: shuffling my feet instead of taking steps. The disturbance from my feet in the sand is felt by stingrays burrowed in under the sand. Stingrays are quite shy and will swim off if possible, but they have a nasty barb on the end of that tail and they’re not afraid to use it if startled.
Out of all the wildlife danger, though, be they sharks or stingrays, gators or snakes, the most dangerous animal of all is the shark that cruises the Beach Bar on a Saturday night. Run away real fast if you see one.