07.01.2016

Enjoy Shark-Watching this Shark Week, but Stay Safe

They say math is the “language of the universe.” But we like to think it’s sharks.

Shark Week is a nationwide—no, worldwide—event, now in its 29th year on Discovery Channel. Folks from all over tune in to get their fix of the ocean’s most notorious (and fascinating) predator.

And here on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, we’ve got no shortage of sharks.

No, really—last month, Alabama’s beaches were full of sharks. So much so that the one city chose to close the beaches temporarily in certain locations, with double red flags flying to signal that no one was allowed in the ocean.

But tourists and locals alike didn’t take the warning as a revoked invitation to visit Alabama’s beaches. On the contrary—as AL.com reported, people showed up with cameras and binoculars to get a glimpse of the sharks.

“I grew up in New Jersey,” Steve Howe said in an interview with AL.com’s Brian Kelly. “We always see sharks up there. They don’t really care about us. As long as you don’t go out too far and be aware, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

Yes, sharks aren’t the ruthless killer creatures we often make them out to be. But it’s very important to play it safe around these fearsome fish.

Especially since some of the most dangerous sharks in the world live here.

Yes, the Great White Shark is the most famous/popular, thanks to a certain Steven Spielberg movie.

But the Bull Shark and the Tiger Shark are both dangerous, and special care should be taken if swimming at dusk. Even the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (which you should be able to identify pretty easily, thanks to its facial features) is considered potentially dangerous.

Alabama’s other common sharks—including the Blacktip Shark, Spinner Shark, Finetooth Shark, Atlantic Sharpnose Shark, and Sand Tiger Shark—are not considered to be all that dangerous, but make sure you play it safe anyway. Even a relatively docile shark can try to bite you when it’s hungry and you’re in its territory.

“Sharks are beautiful and majestic creatures. They perform specific biological functions for the ocean environment and are a vital part of our overall ecosystem,” said Chris Blankenship, Director of Marine Resources for Alabama. “Sharks are always present in coastal waters and interactions with swimmers are extremely rare. The shark story in Alabama in June got a little out over blown but the sight of such large sharks in the clear water is a bit unnerving when you are at the beach and it is a good idea to be cautious.”

When you’re playing in Alabama’s coastal waters, conventional wisdom is always best (no shiny jewelry, don’t swim if you have an open wound, etc.).

But there are plenty of other tips to keep in mind in order to avoid (or escape) a shark attack. This article from The Art of Manliness on “How to Survive a Shark Attack” is full of useful information. (For instance, don’t use the ocean as your bathroom.)

Oh, and if you happen to reel in a shark while you’re deep sea fishing? They make for great eats. Check out this list of the “7 Most Delicious Shark Recipes” from Ranker.

So remember, Gulf seafood fans. Shark Week is meant for us to enjoy, and enjoy it we shall. But stay smart and always play it safe around sharks when you’re splashing around on Alabama’s beaches.