The following is for entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as advice.
One of the biggest concerns we hear at Spear Gods is the prevalence of sharks. Whether it’s global warming, lack of commercial fishing, shark feeding, migration patterns or something else entirely, there is no doubt that the number of sharks and shark encounters has increased exponentially in the last decade.
The good news is that despite the huge increase in sharks, actual shark attacks on spearfisherman remain relatively low. This is not to say there aren’t plenty of bad encounters, it’s simply that sharks are not usually aggressive to the point of drawing blood very often.
Sharks can become aggressive for several reasons…
Sometimes it’s a territorial thing, sometimes its hunger and sometimes its conditioning. On some spots sharks react to the shot of a speargun or even to the sound of a boat approaching. They have learned through conditioning that spearos mean blood in the water and wounded fish to feast on! Many people believe that shark feeding conditions sharks to believe that people = easy food.
So how can you prevent or mitigate a negative encounter?
- The first thing is mindset. Understanding that you are an apex predator is paramount. Through eye contact and body language you must not let a shark get comfortable around you. He needs to feel threatened or at least feel that a fight may not be worth the prize. Just as soon as you see a shark, make sure that you let it know you are aware of its presence through eye contact. Do not ignore it else it thinks it’s “sneaking up” on you. Flailing your arms around, yelling, and fake charges (moving toward the shark) will let the shark know that you will not be an easy target. Most sharks are not looking for a fight but rather an easy meal or to simply let you know he doesn’t approve of another predator on “his” spot. If you let the shark know right away that you will not be “easy”, most of the time they will simply check you out and move on.
- The next thing to practice is good shot placement. If you stone (instantly kill) a fish, then there is nothing thrashing through the water drawing their attention. If there are no fish fighting you then you can quickly get your hands on the fish and get it on your stringer or out of the water.
Remember: Aim small, miss small! Aim for central nervous system. The highest likelihood of stoning a fish is where the skull meets the spine which is usually a little bit behind the eye depending on the species. If your fish is still moving, use your knife to pierce its spine.
- This next bit of advice may sound counter-intuitive but keep your fish close to your body if a shark approaches and absolutely do not hand your prize over to the shark! If you hand your fish over right away, all you’re doing is teaching that shark that people mean “easy food” and you may be creating a very dangerous shark unintentionally. By keeping a fish close to your body you are letting the shark know that it is “yours” and he will have to get close enough to risk injury if he wants a piece of it. Sharks are generally pretty savvy and generally try to avoid injury or fights unless they are desperate or conditioned.
Passive devices like Shark Shields and Shark Banz can be used very effectively so long as a shark is not super amped up. Shark Shields are an electronic device that emits strong electrical impulses and essentially creates a large electric field around you. The downside to Shark shields is they are a bit bulky, and they can give you a mild shock if you contact the antennae with your skin. Some people only turn the shark shield on when they see a Shark. Some freedivers “share” a shark shield by attaching it to a marker jug about halfway from the bottom and simply swim through the field on their way up from the bottom.
Shark Banz are extremely strong magnets that can be worn on an ankle or wrist that create a subtle magnetic field that purports to keep inquisitive sharks away.
- When all else fails, you may be left with no other option than lethal defense. Keep in mind you have a speargun in your hands. Don’t be hesitant to send a shaft into the gills of the shark or use an unloaded gun to push an aggressive shark away. If you have a Powerhead or Personal Protection Device (PPD), then send that into the body or head of your attacker. And for anybody who is under the mistaken belief that it’s illegal to kill a shark you are 100% wrong. It is illegal to harvest a shark to eat or pose for pictures, but it is certainly legal to defend yourself when you “fear for your life”.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog, a human, or a shark, you are legally justified in defending your life with lethal means when faced with great bodily harm (unless it’s New York City of course). We don’t advocate killing sharks but your life is far more important and remember that nothing goes to waste in the Ocean.
- Finally… if there are aggressive sharks on a spot, vis is very low, or you simply feel too uncomfortable, then pack up and move to another spot.
Good luck and stay safe!