Scuba Safety: Diving with Sharks

Scuba Safety: Diving with Sharks

In a previous post, we went over the surprisingly low amount of actual shark related fatalities… usually not even making double digits in any given year, but that doesn’t mean you should dive straight in and seek them out without knowing what you are doing. Diving with sharks has the potential to be dangerous if the proper procedures are not followed. On the otherhand, diving with sharks has the gives you an opportunity to encounter one of the most graceful and beautiful creatures in the world, as well as a humbling experience. Please keep in mind that these guidelines are for people that actually want to seek out sharks and dive with them, if you aren’t interested in diving with sharks during your underwater adventures, don’t worry; the likelihood of  seeing a shark  is incredibly small.

Research And Know Your Sharks
While it is quite safe to swim unprotected with Nurse sharks and other smaller shark species, some of the larger species,  require a great deal of safety procedure to be followed. When you’ve decided to go diving with sharks, the most logical first step is to research the species of sharks that you’d be interested in diving with. When you do your research properly, you will be able to avoid potentially dangerous situations. For example if you were to go scouting for sharks, you need to know what species frequent the area. You also need to know their behaviors and how to recognize when a shark is accepting your presence or showing signs of aggression.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREForego Bravado
Please follow the instructions in the exact manner as your guide tells you to. Do not create an unsafe environment by doing things you have specifically been told might actually provoke an attack.

Don’t Feed Sharks
To some species, instead of thinking of you as a provider of food, you get categorized as a source of food, and the shark can be provoked to attack you. When divers tried to teach sharks to eat lionfish, the divers instead often experienced increased aggression towards the themselves. If you are diving with an outfit that offers feeding sessions, follow their dive plan, and listen to the do’s and do not’s. Leave the shark feedings to the pros.

multiplesharkdiveBe Respectful And Quiet
Don’t try to stare down the shark, don’t prod or try to grab. Generally try to be gracious and  avoid sudden movements and overwhelming noises (no screaming in your regulator). While annoyance may not provoke an attack, it may increase aggression in what is perceived as self-defense. The recommended distance is different from species to species, and the dive provider will most likely inform you of the guidelines. Looking it up on your own beforehand is not a bad idea so that you are mentally prepared for this amazing encounter!

If You Feel Threatened…
If you feel threatened,  the worst possible course of action is panicking and lashing out. These actions might actually provoke aggression when there was no actual danger to begin with. In many cases the shark might simply be curious as to what is following it around.  If you start to feel panicked, alert your buddy and start slowly and quietly making your way out of the water. Follow proper diving procedure and maintain the safety stop. In most cases the risk of decompression sickness is greater than the risk of diving with the shark itself. Despite how overwhelming it might seem at the moment, stop, take a breath, Think, and then act. Taking a deep breath might actually calm your nerves and allow you to continue the dive.

If you know that you are a person who has a tendency to  get sudden panic attacks or act swiftly and irrationally when stricken with fear, choosing  a shark dive is probably not a propper fit.  You should be mentally prepared for the dive, and the awesomeness and grace these beautiful predators display. Although the risk for attack is certainly low, it is there, so keep that in mind and do your best to prepare before you actually go through with it.  A certain level of stress is expected when diving with any apex predator, however remember that if you remain relaxed, do not panic, and try to appreciate what you are about to see, a shark dive will be an encounter you will never forget.

With Whale Shark : Marcel Ekkel - With Multiple Sharks: Vic DeLeon

 

Michael Schad

About 

Michael is a PADI Certified Rescue Diver and a USCG Licensed Captain. He is an avid offshore fisherman as well as an ocean conservationist. On any given weekend, he is either out camping with his family or diving the pristine waters of inland Florida or the reefs along the Atlantic Coast.

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About Michael Schad

Michael Schad

Michael is a PADI Certified Rescue Diver and a USCG Licensed Captain. He is an avid offshore fisherman as well as an ocean conservationist. On any given weekend, he is either out camping with his family or diving the pristine waters of inland Florida or the reefs along the Atlantic Coast.