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Is It Dangerous To Dive With Sharks?

   March 19th, 2022   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

Is It Dangerous To Dive With Sharks?

Is it dangerous to dive with sharks? The short answer is no. Most people are scared of sharks. Sharks are one of the most mistakenly feared animals in the ocean when in fact, humans do more damage to sharks than sharks do to humans.

How Often Do Sharks Attack Humans?

Shark attacks are often a case of mistaken identity. Sharks like to eat seals and sea lions. Think of a surfer or open water swimmer wearing a wetsuit on the surface. They might look like a seal or sea lion from below from a shark’s perspective. However, the risk of a shark attack can be reduced by following some simple guidelines.

In 2021, there were around 73 unprovoked and 39 provoked shark attacks around the world. Provoked meaning there was some human engagement with the shark whether touching, feeding, accidental spearfishing, or unhooking a net from sharks.

Each year, about six humans die from a shark attack whereas more than 100 million sharks die each year from humans. Overall, when you get in the water, you have a 1 in 3.7 million chance of dying from a shark. You are more likely to die from lightning or a coconut falling on your head than you are from a shark attack.

SCUBA Diving with Sharks

SCUBA diving with sharks is one of the most exciting things I have done. Sharks are curious creatures and will approach divers to check them out. Most sharks will come up close and just swim away while others will keep their distance entirely. Is it dangerous to dive with sharks? In my opinion, no, as long as the proper precautions are taken, and divers do not engage with sharks.

I have had the pleasure of diving with sharks on numerous occasions in the ocean and in an aquarium. The first time I saw a shark while SCUBA diving was a little intimidating. Seeing an animal that the public pushes in your head to be dangerous is scary at first. Then, watching this beautiful creature swim up to you and get so close you see its eyeballs moving is spectacular! From that moment, I never again thought it was dangerous to dive with sharks, but caution should be taken. 

I am also a volunteer at my local aquarium where I am regularly in a tank with many species of sharks: nurse, sandbar, back tip reef, and grey reef. In my years of being there, I have never feared the sharks. They get very close in this setting and check you out and keep swimming away. This also helps with the public image as they see us in there swimming freely with the sharks. We are able to help show that it is not dangerous to dive with sharks. For those interested, there are many aquariums around the world that let you pay to SCUBA dive with sharks.

Most Dangerous Sharks

When asked ‘is it dangerous to dive with sharks’, one also must consider the type of shark being spoken about. The top three most dangerous sharks are Great White, Tiger, and Bull. With Great White sharks, cage diving is the most common way to encounter these animals. Seeing a Great White shark while SCUBA diving is rare and often a diver’s dream come true despite what you may think. Tiger sharks are perhaps most popular in the Bahamas where you can do a specific Tiger shark dive. Bull sharks can be seen around the world. 

My Experience

I have never had the experience of diving with Great White sharks but would love to. I have seen a Tiger shark and bull sharks while diving. When I first saw the Tiger shark off Kona, Hawaii, I first thought how cool this was. We were warned before we got in the water that we might see Tiger sharks in the area. We were all excited at the thought! As I watched this animal known as the ‘garbage disposal of the ocean’ swim by us, my excitement turned to that of caution as I knew what this animal is capable of. Tiger sharks will eat just about anything and have been found with coal, license plates, tires, and all sorts of trash in their stomachs. However, nothing happened when we encountered the Tiger shark. The shark just kept on swimming by us.

I have also had the pleasure of diving with Bull sharks off of Key Largo, Florida. We witnessed two Bull sharks swimming in a sleeping pattern right off the bow of the wreck we were diving. We were more amazed at seeing this sight than being nervous that they were going to turn and suddenly attack us. Overall, sharks should fear humans more than humans should fear sharks. Thus, it is not dangerous to dive with sharks, but caution should be taken when you see a shark to make sure you respect its space. Always follow the best practices for SCUBA diving safely. Additionally, there is a global effort to help save sharks as they are very important to our ecosystem.

Candace is an avid scuba diver and freelance writer with a PhD in Biomedicine. She has been diving since 2002 and is currently a PADI IDC Staff Instructor. When she is not instructing, she enjoys writing about scuba and volunteering at the local aquarium where she dives with the sharks!

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