It is Sharktober. This is the term surfers refer to the months bordering and including October when peak white shark activity and shark attacks occur along our coastline. The Bay is the center of the Red Triangle. This area bounded by Bodega Bay, Big Sur and the Farallon Islands, has nearly half of the recorded white shark attacks on humans in the US. Over 80% of recorded shark fatalities are north of Point Conception.
Yet even in these months of peak white shark activity, shark attacks are rare, more rare than being struck by lightening. Survival odds of a white shark attack is high at 90% along our coastline, and can be increased following sensible behavior.
White sharks, also called great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias), are intriguing to many, repulsive to some and a fact of life if you are a water off the west coast of North America.
White sharks are little understood and often unfairly maligned.
This Sharktober we can avoid incident by following the suggestions below so that both humans and sharks can swim unharrassed.
- Avoid areas with high activity of seals in the water or where they haul out.
- Don’t enter the water in areas of known shark activity. Known hot spots include Dillon Beach, Ano Nuevo and Pt Conception.
- Pay attention to Nature’s signs. Circling birds, splashing water, feeding seals and dolphins may also indicate a shark is near.
- Use the buddy system. Most shark attack survivors lived because they had immediate aid.
- Don’t look like shark food. A dark silhouette may resemble shark prey. Long boarders have lowest risk with swimmers and divers the highest. Patterned wetsuits and surfboards are available but not tested by time.
- Low light may add to a mistaken predation. White sharks may mistake swimmers or surfers as a seal or sea lion during evening, dawn and dusk.
- River mouths or areas of water obscurity can increase risk. White sharks also frequent areas with deep channels and drop offs or canyons.
- Don’t bleed in the water. If you have a cut get out. (The evidence on menstrual blood or urine attracting sharks is still inconclusive.)
- If you see a shark, alert others, stay calm and paddle away avoiding jerky, splashing motions and exit the water. Warn others.
- Observe the signs. Our beaches are posted if a large shark is sighted. Some like Stinson Beach have permanent signage. Drone footage and alerts on social media often outstrip the news and can alert ocean goers where high shark activity may be occurring.
11. Final Resort? Shark survivors have described striking the nose, eyes or gills as a successful (and last ditch) approach towards inducing the shark to release them. Return attacks with white sharks are extremely rare and the odds of survival are high with immediate stabilization and care.
See a shark? Send out a tweet to SharkStewards #SharkWatch and we will record the observation and share. Learn more about sharks at Shark Stewards.org