The great white sharks head north to spend the months of July through November cruising Atlantic Canadian waters, feasting on the abundance of seals that make their favorite meal.
With that in mind, a Dalhousie University marine biology student with a passion for the world’s largest predatory fish recently created a five-minute video video and infographics to share savvy shark tips with ocean-loving Atlantic Canadians.
Vanessa Schiliro wants people to know how best to avoid encounters and what to do (and how to behave) if they encounter a great white shark while enjoying ocean activities like swimming, surfing or diving.
“I moved to Halifax about a year and a half ago and started to see a lot of headlines in the media that there had been an increase in shark sightings, that they were tracking more of sharks in the area, but I saw a potential gap in terms of what do you do if you encounter or see a great white shark,” Schiliro said in an interview Monday.
“I realized that all of this news could be intimidating to some people because they’re big fish and they tend to get a bad rap given their portrayal in movies like Jaws or how some media headlines tend to overemphasize how shark encounters decrease.
As noted in his informational video, there are only two documented shark attacks in Nova Scotia. One was a fatal attack in 1891, and the second was a non-fatal attack that happened in 2021.
“It’s like bears, isn’t it?” Many of us go hiking, camping, many times during the summer and we know there might be bears, we assume that risk. It’s very rare for this encounter to happen, but most of us know to stay calm and not do anything to stimulate the bear in case we see one,” Schiliro said.
“I want people to start thinking about it this way and just realize that humans and sharks have really co-existed for thousands and thousands of years and very few bad encounters have happened.”
To help allay people’s fears and raise awareness that great white sharks aren’t “stupid animals thirsting for human blood,” Schiliro’s video and infographic outlines do’s and don’ts of designed to help people stay safe in the water while enjoying their favorite summer activities. .
Schiliro said similar information is readily available from other areas frequented by great white sharks, including Hawaii, California and Florida. Its purpose is to help further reduce the chances of an encounter and increase the chances of it being safe if it does occur.
“It’s really about adjusting your own behavior and increasing your awareness. A lot of people don’t even know that we have great white sharks here or that we have as many as we do,” Schiliro said.
“I think it’s just a step in realizing that when you step into the water, that’s what could be there.”
Schiliro said her fascination with giant predators includes a passion for what she calls a “rebranding” of the great white shark. She thinks it’s important to raise awareness of the important role they play in keeping the oceans balanced and healthy.
Although there is still a long way to go, Schiliro is grateful for a recent positive public shift that has caused many people to trade their fear of great white sharks for curiosity, acknowledging that their fears are often driven by inaccurate depictions. of movies and television.
“In movies like Jaws, that’s just not how white sharks behave. Ultimately, it’s a wild animal, and like any wild animal, we need to be aware that we’re entering always in their environment,” she said.
“The ocean is their environment, and so it’s up to us too to raise our awareness and be mindful of our behavior when sharing the ocean with such an incredible species.”
Schiliro said sharks swim close to humans every day and nothing happens. According to his infographic, texting and driving, lightning and bees all cause more annual deaths than sharks.
“To see a shark in the ocean, especially with all the threats it faces today, is a really positive indicator for the health of our waters,” she said.
“We should welcome this and refocus our efforts on ensuring we provide them with an optimal environment rather than fearing them.”
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