How to Survive a Shark Attack

In real life, unlike in the movie Jaws, sharks don't approach with a distinctive "duh, duh... duh, duh" soundtrack. They attack so suddenly, their victims rarely see it coming.

However, that doesn't mean that there's no way to avoid an attack. Experts say that if you take the right precautions, your risk of being attacked is minimal. In fact, each year around the world only 100 people are attacked by sharks (and 25 to 30 are killed), according to NOVA. Compare that with 30 to 100 million sharks that are killed by humans each year, and you'll see who's really at risk.

Even so, shark attacks are scary. So, the next time you're at the ocean, what can you do to help stay safe?

How to Prevent a Shark Attack

Clearly, the best way to survive a shark attack is to keep sharks away from you in the first place. Here, seven tips to help reduce your risk of becoming prey.

  • Heed warnings from officials. When a 14-year-old was attacked by a shark in Brazil, authorities said he had ignored posted signs warning of shark attack dangers. 

  • Don't swim after a heavy rain. Australian authorities warn swimmers and surfers of going out after a heavy rain because bull sharks, in particular, are more active in muddy waters.

  • Don't go out alone. Sharks are less likely to strike a group of people, according to information compiled by the International Shark Attack File, which records all known shark attacks. 

  • Don't swim while it's dark or during sunset. Sharks are more active during the evenings. In addition, they have a unique eye structure that allows them to see in dim light. 

  • Stay out of the water if you have an open wound. Sharks have an extremely sensitive sense of smell. According to NOVA, they can detect one drop of blood per a million parts seawater. Once they notice the scent, they follow it until they find the source.

  • Don't wear shiny jewelry or bright colored clothes. The light reflecting off jewelry could like the fins of a fish to a shark. Sharks can also see contrast very well, which is why they like bright colors, according to the International Shark Attack File. 

  • Don't provoke a shark. It sounds like common sense, but the International Shark Attack File says that of the 112 shark attacks that occurred in 2007, 20 of them were provoked by people (for instance, a diver who grabbed a shark).

How to Survive a Shark Attack

What if the unthinkable happens and a shark comes after you? What do you then? In that case, try to remember these five words of wisdom.

  • Back up. If you see a shark approaching you, get your back against the ocean wall, a reef, a pile of rocks, a friend, or diving partner. This will minimize the number of angles the shark can attack you, according to the International Shark Attack File. 

  • Fight back. A diver in Australia was able to fight off a great white shark by hitting it with his spear gun, according to news reports of the incident. Don't play dead; show the shark that you can defend yourself.

  • Aim for the eyes or gills. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook says the shark's eyes and gills are the areas most sensitive to pain. It suggests hitting the shark with anything in your possession, including a camera or your own fist, in these pain-sensitive areas. 

  • Find a tourniquet, if bit. Surfers are at greatest risk of attack because they spend the most amount of time in the water. They're told to carry a three-foot long surgical tube to use as a tourniquet in the event of an attack. The surfboard leash or any other length of material can also be tied above a bite to stop the bleeding, if necessary.

  • Get out of the water. Even when fought off, sharks will often return, especially if they can smell blood. Get into a boat or to shore as quickly as possible.