Many OBX visitors would agree that relaxing days at the beach are the best part of an Outer Banks vacation. Our beautiful beaches draw millions of tourists every year, but some vacationers stay out of the water due to their fear of sharks. Take a look at the shark attack statistics I am sharing below – it’s not as bad as you might think. In general, if you follow simple shark safety tips, you will have little to worry about.
It may be comforting to know that shark attacks on the Outer Banks, and in the world in general, are very rare. According to International Shark attack file, in 2012, there were a total of 80 unprovoked attacks in the entire world (78 in 2011, 82 in 2010) with a total of 7 fatal outcomes. About half of the unprovoked attacks happened in the North American waters (42), with the majority of them in Florida, Hawaii, and California. North Carolina had 2 recorded shark bites in 2012. According to the same source, the majority of shark attacks involve surfers and others participating in board sports, and only about 22% of recreational swimmers.
If you look at accident statistics for the Outer Banks, the chances of getting severely hurt by a shark are very slim when compared to the danger of riding a bicycle along the side of the highway 158 or crossing the road in unmarked crosswalks. Don’t let the fear of sharks stop you from enjoying the water, but do follow shark safety tips below.
- Sharks feed at dawn and at dusk, so swimming in the Ocean early in the morning or late in the afternoon is not recommended. I suggest the swimming time-frame of 10 am to 4 pm, to be on the safe side.
- Some types of sharks are more aggressive than others, but, generally, they are not very interested in humans. However, sharks can mistaken shiny jewelry and swimming suit buckles for fish scales, especially in cloudy or murky water, so, it’s a good idea to leave all jewelry (including rings, bracelets, ear rings, necklaces, and watches) at home and save the shiny and reflective bathing suits for a pool. Same goes for bright colored swimwear as sharks are drawn to bright and contrasting colors, especially yellow.
3. Sharks are very attracted to bodily fluids, especially blood, so menstruating women and everyone with an open wound should avoid swimming in the Ocean. Urinating in the water may also be a bad idea.
4. Steer clear of fishermen fishing at the beach – you never know what might be after the smaller fish they are trying to catch. I also would suggest that you don’t swim too close to Fishing piers - sharks may be attracted to bait and discarded fish.
5. Splashing resembles the behavior of wounded prey, so swim smoothly and avoid erratic movements to avoid drawing shark’s attention.
6. Avoid sandbars and steep drop-offs.
7. Never swim alone. Although shark attacks are extremely rare, it’s always a good idea to swim with a group, just in case.