Can You Fight the Shark and Win?

Judging from the movie Jaws , the best way to deal with a shark is to stick a pressurized scuba tank in its mouth, climb into your ship’s “crow’s nest” and shoot the tank from a distance, causing the shark to explode into a million pieces. If you’re like me and don’t swim in the ocean with an air balloon, a gun, or a bloodlust, you still have other options.

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How common are shark attacks?

To quell some fears beforehand: shark attacks are not common. According to the International Shark Attack File held by the Museum of Florida, only 73 unprovoked shark bites were reported worldwide in 2021. You are almost ten times more likely to be struck by lightning than a shark.

But while the risk of a shark attack is low, it is not zero. That’s why I spoke with shark expert Dr. Yiannis Papastamatiou of Florida International University to find out exactly what you should do if you ever come face to face with a prehistoric oceanic dinosaur.

Dr. Papastamatiou explained that the context in which you encounter a shark is important. “Most shark encounters are non-aggressive. The main thing you want to do is stand your ground and watch [it]. You don’t want to run and start running.” He elaborated that you want to make sure the shark is aware of your presence in a way that doesn’t cause an alarm, if possible.

Should you punch a shark in the nose?

When I asked about the old advice on how to punch a shark in the nose, Papastamatiou explained that this strategy was illegal. “There is no magic place,” he said. “If the animal is aggressive, you must resist by pushing and hitting as much as possible. But you must avoid the mouth area,” for the obvious reason.

What is the best way to win?

Papastamatiou explained that in any case, you should “aim more for the gills.” However, in the heat of the moment, aiming at a specific area on a shark’s body may not be possible, so ultimately it’s important to just land as many hits as possible wherever possible. Sharks tend to attack quickly, so chances are the encounter will end sooner than you think. And then, if you get bitten, get to land as quickly as possible for help.

Ultimately, the idea of ​​”winning” a shark fight really just means that you survived with as few injuries as possible. But chances are you won’t find yourself in that situation to begin with. If you find yourself encountering a shark in the wild, stay calm and there’s a good chance you’ll be fine.

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