Steven Spielberg has a lot to answer for. Before the movie event that was Jaws, sharks were very rarely at the front of the human mind. Then something happened that changed all that! It was the movie event of the seventies, and the film that went on to establish the summer blockbuster.  For all the positives, the movie Jaws had such a terrible effect on the plight of sharks the world over.

People from every country on the planet were now convinced that if they went anywhere near the sea they were going to be gobbled up by a huge fish.  Despite the fact that in the film, Bruce, as the shark was known, happily chewed on people while playing the cello, in real life, shark attacks on humans are very rare. It has been reported that sharks attack some 50-75 people each year worldwide, with perhaps eight to twelve fatalities. Compare this to the number of people killed each year by elephants, bees, crocodiles, lightning or many other natural dangers and you begin to see that the risk isnt really that great, but thats not to say there is no risk! Shark attacks seem to have risen over the last century, but that could have something to do with the new technological age and the greater coverage of the media. Even though the number of shark attacks may have risen, the number of fatalities has decreased due to the establishment of better emergency medical services, more public knowledge of basic first-aid and CPR, and increased education and awareness of shark attacks.

 Talk to any Joe on the street about sharks and they will probably mention one of three, the Great White, the Tiger, or the Bull Shark.  Realistically, any shark of about six feet or over is a threat to people even if a bite is not intended as feeding.  Because of the size of the animal, they can cause a person considerable damage! Although the film Jaws may have risen awareness of sharks, believe it or not, these animals have actually been around since the dinosaurs.Thousands of years ago, there was a shark called a Megladon which could grow to some 70 feet in length! This fearsome creature was an apex predator and would make todays Great Whites look like guppies!

I know what youre thinking; this animal isnt alive today, right? Well, maybe the Megladon didnt die out until about 10,000 years ago, and according to experts there is every chance some form of the species may be alive today. Steve Alten, an American best-selling author, makes his living writing about these creatures.  His new novel Meg: Primal Waters is the third in the New York Times Best-Selling trilogy about Angel, a Megladon who rises from the bottom of the ocean and begins feeding on the people she encounters, but even he has admitted that the chance of a Megladon living today is very slim.

 Okay, so I have scared you enough with stories of 70 foot long sharks, but you dont really have to be frightened. There is apparently more chance of being struck by lightening in the middle of New York City than there is of being attacked by a shark, so you can enjoy the water with some peace of mind. Although the chances of being attacked by a shark are a million to one, there is still a chance, so you can take the following advice to limit these chances even further.

Always stay in groups since sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual. Do not wander too far from shore --- this isolates an individual and additionally places one far away from assistance. Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours when sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage. Do not enter the water if bleeding from an open wound or if menstruating --- a shark's olfactory ability is acute. Wearing shiny jewellery is discouraged because the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales. Avoid waters with known effluents or sewage and those being used by sport or commercial fisherman, especially if there are signs of baitfishes or feeding activity. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such action. Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks --- both often eat the same food items. Use extra caution when waters are murky and avoid uneven tanning and bright coloured clothing --- Sharks see contrast particularly well. Refrain from excess splashing and do not allow pets in the water because of their erratic movements. Exercise caution when occupying the area between sandbars or near steep drop-offs --- these are favourite hangouts for sharks. Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present and evacuate the water if sharks are seen while there. And, of course, do not harass a shark if you see one!