Should you be scared of sharks in Primorye?

Should you be scared of sharks in Primorye

In early July, residents of Primorye were disturbed by the news of a large shark being spotted in the waters off the territory. Is it necessary to take speedy action against the “deadly sea creatures’ invasion”? The short answer is no, it is not necessary.  Below, staff scientists from the A. V. Zhirmunsky National Scientific Center of Marine Biology FEB RAS share more details about the behavior of these predators and explain why we should not panic.

To start with, it is important to note that the local waters are home to several shark species, such as the spiny dogfish and the salmon shark. They pose no threat to humans since their diet consists mainly of fish. They often get mistaken for members of larger species such as the great white shark and the shortfin mako shark.

However, the fears that have arisen are quite understandable:  the shark attack on a man in 2011 is still fresh in the memory of locals. Experts from the Laboratory of Ichthyology at the NSCMB FEB RAS believe that a great white shark may have been responsible for the attack. The animal was most probably attracted to the area by spotted seals, whose haul-out sites occur in close proximity to the village of Andreyevka and some other popular vacation destinations in Primorye. It was just very bad luck that those people encountered the shark: because of low visual acuity, the predator may not be able to distinguish a human from its natural prey – a seal. The 2011 incident happened in the latter half of August, which is the time when sea water temperatures reach their maximum, while most tropical shark species become less active in their search for prey at water temperatures lower than 18° C.

In general, even though there is a chance that you will encounter a shark in southern Primorye in late August or September, this chance is fairly small. Bear in mind that the majority of shark attacks are provoked by humans, and such events can be and must be prevented. Here are some tips to avoid them:

•          During the months when the sea is warmest, stay out of the water at dawn and dusk – the hours when fishes tend to hunt.

•           Do not enter the water if you have open wounds.

•          If you spot a shark when boating, do not chase or harass it. Do not dangle your arms and legs in the water and never throw fish into the sea to attract the animal. If you keep your catch in a wire mesh basket placed in the water, remove it from the water when a shark is nearby.

•          If you encounter a shark when swimming, avoid erratic movements, try to relax and wait for the shark to leave the area.

As for the video recently posted online, the situation needs to be carefully assessed by ichthyologists before any firm conclusion may be drawn. Regularities and tendencies in the behavior of predators can be revealed through adequate scientific monitoring. At this point, we cannot confidently say that the number of shark encounters in Primorye has increased because there is no precise statistics concerning this question. It can only be noted that shark-spotting videos released online have become more frequent lately but they contain only comments from the bystanders, and none of them provides reliable information either about the site where the predators were sighted or about their size and species.

Common misconceptions about sharks are incorrect and may lead to dire consequences for the fishes: driven by negative emotions, people – often putting themselves at risk – hunt and kill sharks, posting videos of the process on social media.

It is important to remember that sharks are not bloodthirsty monsters, and humans are not on their list of favorite food items. On the contrary, sharks regularly suffer at the hands of humans: every year people kill up to 100 million of these animals. Following the simple recommendations from our experts will enable you to comfortably share space and safely coexist with the predators.