Shark Attack Tips

National Geographic News
Updated July 1, 2005

There were only 61 confirmed unprovoked attacks by sharks on humans worldwide in 2004, according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF). Only seven people people died: including two in Australia and one each in California, Hawaii, South Africa, and Brazil. (The location of the remaining fatality was not specified.)

Still, the threat, however small, is real. And the best way to prepare yourself for a possible shark encounter is to know how to avoid an attack, what to do if you are bitten, and how to help attack victims.


Stay away from the mouths of rivers after heavy rains, when freshwater fishes and other animals are swept out to sea.

Swim clear of fishing boats. They often trail fish remains and blood, which can draw sharks.

If you're bleeding, including menstruating, stay on the beach. Sharks can smell and taste even the smallest amount of blood from over a mile (1.6 kilometers) away and trace it back to its source.

If you cut or injure yourself in the water, get out! Do not stay in the water with blood around you.

Stay out of the water if fish blood or baitfish are present. In other words, steer clear of fishers.

Avoid large groups of fish, seals, or sea lions. They all are prominent on the shark's menu.

Stay away if you see large groups of dolphins and seabirds. They are attracted to the same food sharks eat. And don't make the mistake of thinking that if dolphins are present, there won't be any sharks around. Dolphins can be prey for large sharks.

Stay away from dead animals in the water.

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