Alright, an empirical theory exists that states the presence of dolphins in the surf protects surfers and swimmers from sharks. Well, according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, this may not be altogether true. Scientists and academics from Murdoch University have come to the conclusion that sharks are more likely to get snappy toward dolphins in sheltered waters than when further out in the ‘blue water’.
Those involved in the study collected data from 343 dolphins over 500 square kilometres in both sheltered and open coastal waters. It took 600 boat trips to gather enough information to validate a sound scientific study.
“We wanted to know whether any particular group of dolphins were more vulnerable to shark attacks. So, we looked for patterns by grouping dolphins based on age and sex, seasonality and annual trends, and also the location in open versus sheltered waters” explains Kate Sprogis, a researcher at Murdoch University’s Cetacean Research Unit.
Sheltered Waters vs. Open Ocean
The results derived from the study indicated that dolphins tracked in sheltered waters had a higher bite wound frequency than those tracked further out to sea (25% compared to 13%).
“We believe that because water is more shallow in sheltered waters, with less space and fewer escape routes, altercations between sharks and dolphins are more likely to happen. But it could also happen because the acoustic detection of predators may be more difficult with more underwater noise from ships and boats in these areas, or because the murkier waters make it more difficult for dolphins to spot sharks” Sprogis notes.
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Contrary to popular belief, the number of shark attack incidents can be higher when dolphins swim around near the shore, increasing, even more, the number of encounters with humans.
“We could not account for dolphins that may have died from interactions with sharks. We worked with data from dolphins who have survived. So, this figure could be even higher,” concludes Sprogis.
Going off previous studies, the chances of a surfer being snacked on by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067….that’s 0,000026%. To put things into perspective, you are more likely to meet your end by an ant attack. Yes, you read that correctly. A flippen ant attck! Don’t know about you guys but I’m sure as hell still gonna be stoked when flipper pulls in for a visit!