Shark Facts Every Diver Should Know

Shark Facts Every Diver Should Know

When the terrifying thriller, Jaws, came out in theaters in 1975, we all became obsessed with shark facts. Many of us were afraid to swim in the ocean at all. But many of us were also a little afraid to take a shower after seeing the 1960s horror film, Psycho. And, truth is, we are probably less likely to get killed by shark attack than we are by a knife-wielding psychopath in the shower.

A bloody ocean death seems much more likely because Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel-turned-movie was just that scary. Because of the irrational fear of sharks the movie stoked, and the large-scale harvesting of shark fins, Benchley–now a steward of shark conservation–says he would rewrite Jaws today, making the shark the victim rather than the villain.

But never fear. Before you dive back into the water, gear up with some shark facts and information about diving made safe for both humans and sharks.

What Is Shark Diving?

shark diving

After watching hours of gorgeous diving footage on the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, we may be inspired to dive off the couch and go swimming with the big fishes ourselves. There are companies who specialize in suiting divers up for shark cages or guiding trips for snorkeling or diving with the awe-inspiring animals near coral reefs.

The shark cage allows divers to feel more safe with some bars in between them and the apex predators. But many experienced divers say this is unnecessary and more a product of our imaginations than a need based on shark facts.

Is Shark Diving Safe?

woman diving with shark

The odds are in our favor. For example, in the United States, a beach-goer’s chance of getting attacked by a shark is 1 in 11.5 million, and a person's chance of getting killed by a shark is less than 1 in 264.1 million. That’s pretty rare. By comparison, the odds of getting killed in a car accident are 1 in 77, a fact that certainly does not stop us from driving.

Humans are much more of a threat to sharks than vice versa. An estimated 73 million sharks are killed every year just for their fins. Shark fin soup is a popular menu item in some cultures and has encouraged fishing even among species that are endangered.

Facts about Shark Diving

Staying Safe

In the Water

They Know the Time: So Should You

Underwater Photography Requires More Skill than Wedding Photography

Swimming With Dolphins, or Becoming Dinner?

Shark Facts: They Can Help

Just as Jaws fiction caused panic, shark facts can help ensure safety. One way this is possible is through the SharksCount Program meant to allow experienced, recreational divers become scientists with the goal of increasing knowledge about the submerged lives of sharks.

Through the use of free tools such as regional shark identification guides, shark sighting logs and advice from program experts, the sightings data collected by these citizen scientists can give researchers valuable local shark facts which can be used to improve environmental protections for them. The program’s motto: We’re counting sharks because every shark counts.

Great White Shark Facts

big gray shark

Did you know that the coloring of Great White Sharks serves more of a purpose than elegant looks? The coloring actually helps them blend in with their surroundings. Called countershading, the white belly camouflages them from being detected from below against the sunlight coming through the water’s surface. From above, their gray backs help them blend with the colors of the dark ocean waters below them.

Great White Sharks are apex predators and the ocean is their home. They are the world's largest predatory fish, reaching up to 21 feet in length, the size of a substantial sailboat. These sharks have the power to launch their massive bodies out of the water and out-swim even the fastest of humans. These regal creatures earn some of the fear they strike in our hearts. They definitely earn our respect.

Unfortunately, respect is not always given. In fact, it has not followed too many laws surrounding the hunting of these creatures. The number of Great White Sharks in the North Atlantic Ocean have declined by 79 percent since 1986, by best count.

In the Pacific, specifically the central Californian coast, the Great White Shark population is estimated at just 219. With numerous shark sightings of late, it may seem like a low number, but each individual Great White’s dorsal fin is distinct—like human fingerprints. Scientists have been able to show that the same Great White off the coast of California has been sighted many times over the last few decades.

Other Shark Facts

black and white shark underwater

Sharks do not have little beady black, villainous eyes. In fact, they have beautiful blue eyes. And their eyes are much more interesting than human eyes. For example, unlike human eyes, sharks’ eyes hold a layer of mirrored crystals behind the retina. This allows them to see even in low light and dark murky water, ten times better than humans do. So, don’t get lost in those enormous baby blues, that shark’s had eyes on you long before you realized it.

Another shark fact, they must keep swimming. Swimming allows them to breathe. Sharks swim and open their mouths to allow the water to flow across their gills. If this movement stops, they suffocate.

Conclusion

Humans have been fascinated by sharks probably since the first person spotted one while fishing. Shark facts, myths and legends have dominated our popular culture in the last forty-plus years since we first heard the ominous music telling us there was something big and gray with a lot of teeth coming for us from under the water. We have watched numerous sequels to the first Jaws movie.

We have watched satire with Sharknado and its sequels. We have watched countless hours of shark documentaries on the Discovery Channel, where over the last few decades, watching Shark Week has become as big an event for some American households as watching sports playoffs or Hollywood award shows Some of us will take this awe of the shark one step further and dive into the deep to watch them up close. And, that's good, as long as we are respectful of them in their home and use common sense about our visit.

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