Retired marine scientist advises how to defend against shark attacks

Following the death of 53-year-old Westmoreland fisherman Donovan Haywood, who was attacked by a shark last week, many people are now worried about encountering a shark when they go for a swim.

Now, renowned retired marine scientist Dr Karl Aiken is advising people who wish to take a swim far out at sea on how to defend themselves from a shark attack.

Dr Aiken encouraged that an individual should not swim alone, but instead people should swim in pairs to ensure a higher chance of surviving a shark attack.

“This is why you travel in pairs, one man swims [away] and the other one [distracts] the shark. If the shark decides to approach, the shark has extremely sensitive receptor organs on its face, and if you were to poke it in the nose [with a] stick or a spear gun, it would rapidly turn around and go away for a while,” he explained.

Continuing, Dr Aiken said that if the sharks are really hungry they will turn around and make another try, therefore, “The key thing is while you’re trying to get away from them, somebody keeps an eye on them, and [continues] poke them in the nose with a stick or your spear gun.

“In that way, you may survive a shark attack. If they grab you though you’re in big trouble… because like crocodiles, what they do is shake their heads, so that their teeth saw off your limbs, they don’t just grab you and hope that your limbs come off,” Dr Aiken stated.

He also said tiger sharks that are top predators in the Caribbean Sea and are at the top of the food chain are unafraid to approach humans.

“There is nothing that eats them, they are unafraid. So you go out there and they will come straight up in your face and if they like how you taste they will bite you because they’re hungry and they’re large and they’re used to other [animals] not troubling them,” he stated.

Tiger sharks, which are the largest of its kind that are seen in the Caribbean Sea, are common in tropical and subtropical waters throughout the world and can grow up to 16 feet and weigh over 300 pounds.

With this in mind, Dr Aiken also advises that persons should not use their hands to try and ward off the shark.

“You [shouldn’t] try to do anything to them, but if they’re coming… [you] would not use [your] hand because it will grab your hand. These are dangerous creatures, you can’t joke with them. They are the lions of the sea. They will eat you. When you go into the water you are in the territory of the sharks, and sharks rule the sea and if you mess with them they will mess with you.” He said.

Noting that a person should swim away from the sharks in a “controlled manner,” Dr Aiken said, “If you thrash around, the sharks will think you are a fish in distress and they will come and eat you. Keep your eyes on them, never take your eyes off the shark, I don’t know if you can swim backwards, but you can try your best to do it.”

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark File, the odds of someone being attacked by sharks are approximately one in three million people.

Dr Aiken believes that one of the reasons there seems to be more shark attacks in recent years is due to conservation efforts being done in the region.

“There might be slightly more sharks than before because of conservation measures that have been in place for about 10 or 12 years now. Some areas are showing significant increases in fishes, and fishes are the prey for the sharks. Once you have a lot more fish at the bottom [of the food chain] then there’s more food for the sharks to eat,” Dr Aiken said.

On the other hand, Dr Aiken said shark attacks are rare and having two attacks since the start of the year is one too many.

“It’s [shark attack] rare. Up until just a year or two ago there were very few shark attacks, but there’s been an increase in attacks,” he stated.

There have been a total of 12 deaths caused by shark attacks in Jamaican waters since 1827.

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