With the 1975 release of Jaws, the godfather of all shark movies, and the many various iterations on the theme that have come and gone since then, it seems that Hollywood wants us to think that it’s never safe to get back in the water. However, given that the odds of being killed by a shark are about 3.8 million to 1, just how dangerous are water sports such as jet skiing when it comes to attracting sharks?
While it makes for a great headline, shark attacks on jet skiers are incredibly rare, and it’s unlikely that sharks will be attracted to the hum and thrum of your jet ski. You can also further reduce the chance of an attack by following a few basic precautions when taking your jet ski for a spin.
Fear of sharks shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your time in the water as the odds of a shark attack are always very low. And the odds of a shark attacking a jet ski? Well, they are even lower.
How many shark attacks happen each year?
In good news for swimmers and water sports lovers the world over, the average number of shark attacks appears to be decreasing every year. Worldwide in 2019, there were just 64 unprovoked attacks, 41 provoked attacks, and 12 attacks on motorized or non motorized marine vessels (including boats and jet skis).
What might attract a shark?
The first and foremost factor in shark attacks is very simple: the more people there are in the water, the more likely it is for a shark attack to occur.
Although the number of shark attacks may have declined in recent times, population growth and an increased interest in water sports has seen a general incline in the average number of shark attacks over the past century.
According to data, the most common circumstance in which an unprovoked shark attack is likely to occur is when victims are engaged in ‘surface recreation’ – that is, most water-based activities with the exception of diving or swimming. Surfing, kayaking, and bodyboarding are all activities that fall into the surface recreation category.
Although jet skis also fall into this category, the relative number of attacks on marine vessels is still extremely low. The splashing and vigorous activity that goes hand-in-hand with surface recreation activities is likely the biggest draw for sharks, as it mimics the sounds of struggling fish.
Given that sharks are predatory by nature, it almost goes without saying that they will be attracted to fishing waters. Whether the fishing takes place off the back of a boat or on the beach, sharks will be drawn to any area in which their main food source is present in abundance.
As such, jet skiers should avoid any body of water in which fishing is taking place. In addition to finding yourself in the middle of a large school of fish, there is also likely to be blood in the water – quite the shark-attractant double whammy!
How can I avoid a shark attack?
The most important thing to remember when embarking on any form of water sport is that your chance of being attacked by a shark is very slim. However, there are a few precautions you can take to further reduce your risk and set your mind at ease during a day out on the water.
Firstly, avoid entering the water at dawn or dusk. The low light conditions make it hard for sharks to see what they are actually taking a bite out of, and there is also an increased number of other marine creatures – the sharks’ usual food source – around at these times.
Secondly, stay close to shore. Although it is not impossible for sharks to swim in shallower water, it is not their usual hunting ground, and they will typically avoid the shallows. That is, unless a school of fish is around!
Thirdly, avoid that school of fish. Stay out of the water whenever they are around.
Fourthly, avoid entering the water alone. Again, this is not a foolproof method for avoiding a shark attack, but a curious shark is far more likely to investigate a lone swimmer or jet skier. There is safety in numbers!
Finally, if you do come off your jet ski, don’t panic. Excessive splashing can sometimes attract sharks looking for easy prey. Remain calm, and climb back on your jet ski when it is safe to do so.