Don’t panic … Shark Week producer and shark expert Jeff Kurr has advice for finding—and avoiding—close encounters of the shark kind on your summer vacation.
This was previously published on Escape Republic.
This Sunday, Discovery Channel kicks off one of our favorite things about summer: Shark Week! What began as a programming block to fill time twenty five years ago has morphed into one of the biggest pop-culture events in the world. Escape Republic talked to shark expert and Shark Week producer Jeff Kurr (who’s currently on location in Alaska shooting a special on salmon sharks), on what to do and what to expect IF YOU encounter one of these sea dogs while visiting your tropical paradise.
You’re swimming in a cove at your favorite tropical paradise. Suddenly you see the fin of an oncoming shark. What should you do?
Don’t panic. It’s highly unlikely that the shark will approach you. The best thing you can do is keep an eye on the shark at all times and slowly and quietly leave the water. Sharks are curious and sometimes will check people out, but I find that without the lure of bait or chum the vast majority of these predators want nothing to do with people … .
Most sharks are ambush predators, therefore, I like to let them know that I see them coming. So, if the shark continues to come toward you I would suggest make an aggressive “move” or lunge toward the shark, just to let him know that he can’t sneak up on you. That’s usually all it takes.
What kind of sharks are you likely to encounter in Maui?
There are white tip and black tip reef sharks offshore in Maui, but these are small, shy and harmless to humans unless provoked. Maui is also known for tiger sharks which are responsible for quite a few attacks. Seeing a tiger shark in the water doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to be attacked. I’ve swam with these animals numerous times and have a hard time getting them to come nice and close for the cameras. To avoid tiger sharks, I suggest avoiding murky water. If the shark can’t clearly see what you are, it may mistakenly take a bite.
Anguilla? St Barth?
In the Caribbean, you might possibly see nurse, lemon, reef, bull, tigers and hammerheads. Nurse and lemons would probably be the most common and they’re not really dangerous unless there’s a lot of blood in the water.
The Greek Islands?
There have been reports of massive great white sharks in the Mediterranean—one of the biggest ever caught was off Malta. It’s likely the sharks would be attracted by tuna, one of their favorite meals. But seeing a great white off the Greek Islands would be extremely unlikely.
Are there certain bodies of water and/or conditions where you are more likely to encounter a shark?
I usually want to find sharks, so I look for deep drop offs close to shore, river mouths, seal colonies and areas where lots of fishing is taking place. These are places where sharks go to hunt, so if the prey is around it’s likely that a predator is, too.
Sharks are wide ranging and there are few coastlines in the world that don’t have some sort of shark nearby.
How does someone become a shark expert?
There are several types of “shark experts.” Some learn about these animals by spending time with them, while others research them from a laboratory setting, or do a little of both.
I think anyone who has been around sharks for twenty-plus years, whether they are marine biologists or not, could be considered a shark expert. You learn a lot by observing these animals up close.
Images courtesy of Discovery Channel and used by permission, courtesy of the author