Great White Accident: Study Says Attacks from Most Feared Shark Aren’t on Purpose

by Courtney Blackann

It’s a pretty typical fear when entering the water: you’re dangling on your surfboard waiting for that perfect wave when you see a daunting dorsal fin swimming right for you. And it doesn’t help that Hollywood keeps cashing in on this very fear. However, scientists are confirming that Great White shark attacks are merely accidental – and still quite rare.

Researchers in Australia wanted to test out a theory that’s long been hypothesized. And that’s that sharks mistakingly believe humans are seals – and therefore attack. Using underwater cameras, scientists from Sydney’s Macquarie University set up an experiment that would allow humans to see from a shark’s perspective. They studied, seals, humans swimming and on surfboards as well as other marine life.

What they found once they altered that point of view to mimic a baby Great White shark’s perception is that yes, humans do indeed look like seals.

“The results were illuminating: to a juvenile white shark, when humans swim and paddle surfboards, they bear a strong resemblance to seals and sea-lions,” Laura Ryan, neurobiologist at Macquarie University and lead author of the study, said in a statement, via Yahoo! News.

Further, the biologist went on to say:

“We found that surfers, swimmers and pinnipeds (seals and sea-lions) on the surface of the ocean will look the same to a white shark looking up from below, because these sharks can’t see fine details or colours.”

Additionally, scientists said that Great White sharks have attacked 333 times in history, with 52 of them being fatal. The second most-likely sharks to attack? Bull and Tiger sharks. They have a combined 248 attacks with 59 of them being deadly.

In order to find ways to make surfing safer, researchers are testing different methods. This includes using LED lights as a deterrent. However, it’s still a learning process, experts say. And it’s one that will be ongoing.

Shark Strikes Australian Surfer

Just recently, a 20-year-old surfer was fatally attacked in Australia while surfing. According to CNN, many bystanders tried to rush to his aid, though they were unable to help the man.

“A number of local surfers and bystanders came to the aid of this man,” New South Wales ambulance official Chris Wilson said. “Despite the best efforts of bystanders, paramedics, and other emergency services, the patient couldn’t be revived.”

This happened on Father’s day and the surfer’s identity is unknown. The shark appeared to have ripped the man’s arm off during the attack.

The attack was one of many in Australia. It happened 300 miles away from Sydney, off the coasts of Shelly and Emerald beaches in Coffs Harbour. It’s unclear if bystanders knew there was a shark in the area or if it was a surprise attack.