With more people going to the beach, expert eases fears about sharks

Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 8:36 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Even on the calmest days, some of the sea’s most feared creatures are never far away...

Sharks are common all over the world, including right here in the panhandle. Species native to the emerald coast include hammerheads, black tip sharks, sharp nose sharks, bull sharks, and many more. Your location will play a huge role in what you see.

”Different sharks are found in different habitats, I mean species like makos that are found further offshore, but many of the coastal species we have are coastal they are found anywhere from right in the beach zone to several miles offshore,” John Carlson, Research Biologist at NOAA Fisheries said.

It’s fairly common for beach goers to be wary of the water. But unlike the myths or the movies, experts say sharks aren’t interested in humans.

”It’s more dangerous for you to drive to the beach, than it is for you to actually go swimming. You have a much better chance of getting hurt walking to the beach, carrying all of your stuff, than you do getting in the water where there would potentially be sharks,” said Carlson.

But like humans, sharks too make mistakes. Especially when swimmers accidentally mirror behaviors of common prey.

“That flashing in the water, that contrasting flashing of the water from the bottom of your foot - to a shark - may be mistaken for a wounded fish which is normally part of it’s prey,” said Carlson.

Staying calm is key in any close encounter.

“Don’t splash at it, don’t kick at it, or punch it, because that really doesn’t do anything,” Carlson said.

The water isn’t just a place for humans to relax. For sharks, it’s a home.

“Sharks are an integral part of the ocean ecosystem just like everything is an important part of the ocean ecosystem,” Carlson said.

That’s why shark lovers like john are working on conservation and maintenance of healthy populations.

“The us probably has some of the most robust shark populations in the world due to good management and good cooperation between both the recreational industry and the commercial industry,” Carlson said.

Thanks to these efforts, many shark species will enjoy healthy populations for years to come.

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