Experts offer tips on keeping safe from sharks -, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Experts offer tips on keeping safe from sharks

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Chances are sharks have grabbed your attention. 

Following reports of multiple shark bites along the Carolina coast, some beach goers are afraid to go in ocean waters. WMBF News hit the water with local experts to catch sharks and tips about the ocean's most feared beast.

The questions many of you have been asking are, what exactly lies in the water that we boat, surf and swim in, and what’s the threat?

Dan Abel is a marine science professor at Coastal Carolina University, and a shark expert, nationwide. He’s been at it for 20 years, taking his classes on local waters, like Winyah Bay, where they went to catch, tag and release sharks. His goal: to teach students about sharks, so they can teach us sharks are not necessarily meant to harm us.

We ran two lines with bait and pulled out five sharks. The biggest one we caught was about 5 ½ feet. Of the about nine species of sharks in local waters, we caught about three. Abel said, those rarely bite people, if ever; therefore, they're not making the water any less safe.

“It’s the safest it ever was,” Abel said.  “Its a wilderness area, it doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to the sharks and those other organisms, we need sharks in the water.”

That’s why they go out and study sharks, to get an idea of why they act how they act, and do what they do. According to Abel, they’re usually not out to harm you. Many times, if they do attack, it's a case of mistaken identity.

“The ocean needs its sharks, so we should maybe use the recent tragedies and the incidents with people as an opportunity to begin to understand, the role of sharks in their ecosystem and other organisms in the ocean,” Abel said.

The professor is referring to several recent incidents in the Carolinas, most notably, the attack of two teens who lost limbs or partial-limbs in Oak Island.

Abel said there seems to be a slight uptick in the number of bites that you might see this time of year, but it's probably in the high-normal range for now.

So the question is, what do we do?

He said, just like you would wear sunscreen, or a hat outdoors, you have to do the same with the ocean. Keep the risks into perspective and use precautions:

  1. Don’t swim near piers, that's where bait is thrown, and sharks swarm
  2. Don’t swim at dawn or dusk.
  3. If you see a big school of fish - swim opposite of it.
  4. Avoid the water if you’re bleeding.
  5. Take off shiny jewelry and avoid wearing bright colored clothes.

He said, while we may have a fear of sharks, a greater fear should be of them no longer existing.

“Precautions I would take is I would try to ensure we have oceans that have sharks in them,” Abel said. “That’s in our long-term best interest.”

All in all, when you hit the water, use precautions, and listen to lifeguards. When a shark is spotted, they’ll put up a flag and tell you to get out of the water.

Remember, we’re swimming in their home, so as long as we hit the water, they’ll be there with us too.

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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