Jun 24 2008

Mexico Shark Fallout – Blame the Surfers

Published by at 2:15 pm under Sharks,Travel Tips

There’s no question there was some serious fall out from a series of three shark attack within one month in ZIhuatanejo, Mexico (two attacks were fatal). Theories abounded, locals went on a shark killing spree, and media flocked in. Everything from La Nina to Mexican drug runners were blamed. The area which relies on tourism has most likely taken and will continue to take a big hit. LA Times wrote an article that summarizes the incident and responses well.

Outside Magazine Blog published a post that suggests that some locals in the area and “critics” have called into question whether the surfers are to blame noting a certain “reckless selfishness” that surfers display by surfing in areas that might have sharks. Well, I couldn’t find any other reference in any media source that cited locals stating this. As to “critics,” who exactly are these critics? Aside from factual reliability of this statement, it ignores the fact that the last shark attack in the area (in Nayarit, a state 200 miles away!) was in 1972!!! That ranks it as one of the safest surf areas in the world for shark attacks. So to suggest that surfers are knowingly paddling out into shark ridden areas is absurd, as of the attack in April it had been 35 years since there had been an attack within 200 miles!

Shark attacks are nothing new, in fact it’s what sharks do and what they will always do. They have to eat, occasionally they mistake one of us for prey. It’s unfortunate and has tragic results, but also extremely rare (there’s an average of 3.8 fatalities annual worldwide and only 1 in 2007). It shouldn’t keep people from the water although when attacks do happen in certain areas, surfers and swimmers should exhibit caution. Surfline lists a few precautions:

Here are a few things you can do that will reduce the likelihood of an encounter. Don’t surf those areas that are utilized by grunion during their spawns – larger predatory fish will frequent these areas. Don’t surf after sunset and before dawn – sharks are known to migrate towards land at night. Don’t surf a beach where a recent shark encounter or attack has occurred – this one is obvious, the shark could still be in the area. Don’t surf near pinniped haul-out sites – they are a primary prey species for adult white sharks.

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