If you’re anything like most Aussies, spending time by the ocean is one of the many joys of summer.
There’s nothing more relaxing than finding a nice shady spot by the sea and hearing the waves crashing on the shore.
For most of people trips to the seaside are popular in the lead-up to Christmas – especially if you’ve got grandchildren.
After all, who doesn’t love escaping the heat and splashing around in the cool waves?
The only setback is the growing fear of shark attacks.
While they say you’re more likely to die by getting hit on the head by a falling coconut, the reality is that sharks have always been a big part of Australia’s sea life.
According to Taronga’s Australian Shark Attack File Annual Report Summary for 2017, one person has been killed in an unprovoked attack in Western Australia this year.
A further 10 have been injured, while seven others managed to escape uninjured when they encountered a shark.
There’s been six attacks in Western Australia, four each in New South Wales and Queensland, one in Victoria and South Australia, but none to date in the Northern Territory or Tasmania.
So, how do we protect ourselves when in reality, we’re always taking a risk by entering the ocean?
Where you swim can have a big influence on the likelihood of an attack. It’s always recommended to swim between the flags and in patrolled areas. It’s the job of lifesavers to keep you safe and they’ll often be able to spot danger and sound the alarm.
It’s also a good idea to stay in shallower water where possible. While sharks can attack in these kind of environments, recorded attacks have been more common in deeper waters.
The time of day you swim can increase or decrease your chances of spotting a shark.
If you’re the kind of person who likes avoiding the crowds and taking a dip in the ocean at sunrise or sunset, you may want to rethink your plans.
A report by the ABC suggests that sharks have a low visibility in the dark and are more likely to investigate human areas when they’re hungry out of confusion.
According to Australian Geographic, it’s best to stay away from shiny and flashing items of clothing or jewellery when swimming.
That means taking off your watch, rings and necklaces and ditching swimwear with metallic features that could make you more appealing to a hungry shark.
They also recommend avoiding bright colours where possible.
Where possible, it’s always a good idea to hit the surf with at least one other person. Sharks will often avoid heavily populated areas and if you do happen to suffer an injury from a shark, you’ll have someone who will be able to assist you or fend off the shark.
If you do happen to come across a shark, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself. While your first instinct is probably to swim away as quickly as possible, it’s really important not to make any sudden movements.
This doesn’t mean playing dead (the shark will likely eat you anyway), but being smart about the movements you make. Your main priority will be defending yourself, so it’s important not to let the shark out of your sight.
If you do have to launch an attack, it’s best to try and aim for the shark’s eyes or gills. While it is said that you should always try and punch a shark on its nose, it’s best to aim for other areas first so you don’t accidentally get your hand bitten off. It’s also a good idea to use other objects to fight the shark where possible.