The heat of summer and throngs of beachgoers making their way to sandy spots along the Maryland and Delaware coast means ocean swimming and lessons in shark safety.
Although the area is home to various species of sharks, the likelihood of being attacked is virtually nil. According to the International Shark Attack File based at the University of Florida in Gainesville, more Marylanders have lost their lives in lightning strikes since 2010 with none in unprovoked shark attacks.
While the risk is still considerably low, Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the ISAF joins other research organization in having swimmers take important precautions when visiting their local beach.
Annually, the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce reports an estimated 8 million visitors during the summers months with the Rehoboth Chamber of Commerce boasting an additional 7,985,995 to its Delaware shores.
Experts agree to never swim alone as sharks are more likely to attack a solitary swimmer. Even when swimming in a group, staying closer to shore ensures immediate assistance is nearby.
Swimming during daylight hours is also recommended instead of the twilight or evening. Not only do sharks have keen senses even in total darkness, but that is also the most active time for them to hunt.
Not taking to the water if one has a wound that is bleeding is also key as sharks possess a finely tuned sense to smell even from long distance. Experts also discourage wearing shiny jewelry as the reflection also draws their attention.
By avoiding waters where fisherman may be dropping bait or locations where commercial fishing occurs, swimmers also help their chances.
Sharks are also drawn to excessive splashing as it simulates the sound of prey. The area between sandbars and in the vicinity of steep drops are also areas where they frequent.
Should sharks be routinely spotted, avoid swimming altogether and never attempt to touch a shark in the wild.
If one is attacked while swimming, the ISAF also recommends fighting back by hitting their nose and gill area. As they are the most sensitive spots on their body, they should desist.
Mark Sampson, owner and operator of Fishfinder Adventures, has also been at the forefront shark research in Ocean City and says fear of attacks is often exaggerated.
“If you were to drain the ocean, you would see that sharks are everywhere,” Sampson said. “There have always have been and hopefully always will be, but just because we know more about them doesn’t mean there’s increased risk of them. It just goes to show how much we don’t have to worry about sharks.”
Sampson went further to note that sharks help maintain the health of the ocean by controlling the overpopulation of other species.
The Shark Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, finds the most common species in the Maryland and Delaware area include: the hammerhead shark, Atlantic mako shark, sand shark, smooth dogfish shark and spiny dogfish shark. White sharks have also been spotted, but with very rare frequency.
“Enjoy the fact they live off our coast and that we have many different species in the Delmarva area. We’re blessed to have the multitude we have,” Sampson said.