How to spot sharks in the water: Smithsonian researcher shares tips for swimmers

As swimmers hit the beach this summer, reports of shark attacks are back in the news.

Dr. Chuck Bangley, a researcher with the Smithsonian, spoke to our sister station WTVD-TV in North Carolina and pointed out that the reason you see shark attacks in the news is because they're unusual enough to be newsworthy.

"99.9% of the time they are going to pass right by the person without the person even knowing," Bangley said. "If they actually were coming after us, you'd see bites happening more often. The fact that they are newsworthy is a sign of how rare they actually are."

There are about six people killed by sharks every year, ABC News reports.

Bangely said one of the reasons shark attacks are rare is because most of the time, sharks don't confuse humans with prey.

"Some of the best advice that I can give is just be aware of your surroundings," he said. "Sharks are generally really good at what they do. They're capable of identifying things that are and are not on the menu."

SEE ALSO: Tagging sharks for science: Do sea breezes make shark attacks more likely?

For those who still fear going in the water, Bangley suggests looking out for the following:

  • Keeping an eye on birds/fish: If you see birds diving or fish jumping, that could be a indicator that a larger predator, perhaps a shark, could be attempting to prey upon a school of fish.
  • Avoid fishing areas and piers: Bangley said the smell of bait and a struggling fish can attract sharks.
  • Look for clear water: Sharks can see better in clear water and will realize what is and is not food.


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