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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

rules for avoiding a shark attack when kayaking

Re: Shark Shield...a Follow-up

After my initial reply to Paul I put out a series of queries to everyone I know in "the shark biz" and looked at the database of shark attacks to kayaks again in order to address the implied protection of the Shark Shield device.

In general, the following are true the world over as of today:

1. sea kayaks over 15 feet do not get attacked by large apex predator sharks such as white sharks or tigers.
2. in South Africa surf-skis have been hit by white sharks which then left after the initial strike and circle.
3. a tiger shark apparently "mouthed" the stern a sea kayak of 14-16 feet in the Gulf of Mexico (anyone know the exact number, color and model please reply with this information)

In terms of the Shark Shield's effectivness, there is good information from around the world (including our personal experiences at Guadalupe Island, Mexico that a cruising, passive shark is kept at a distance by the Shark Shield.

The Shark Shield is NOT effective when a white shark makes a sudden rushing attack. There has been several bites and one fatality (paradoxically, the brother of the fatality endorsed Shark Shield) with the Shark Shield operating when a white struck from below, rapidly entering both the effective field of the device and hitting the victim at nearly the same moment.

There is no way to increase the field strength without affecting the user.

Is the Shark Shield something to have for sea kayakers? In my opinion, no. It's a total waste of money:
1. white sharks do not attack (as of today) sea kayaks of 5+ meters.
2. a deteremined, rushing hit is not prevented in any case by the Shark Shield
3. a cruising white shark will look at a sea kayak, even approach one closely, but inevitably will cruise away minutes later.
4. the Shark Shield will not stop a shark from checking you out, it will only move the distance away a few neters away from the kayak. Personally, I like the white shark to come as close as possible so it can really check me and the kayak out and learn what it is, as well as that I can check out the shark close up. (Whites don't scare me, tigers do)

Now is the Shark Shield something for surf kayakers and kayak fishing? Maybe so. They are smaller and pinniped-shaped and for surf kayakers, act a lot like pinnipeds panicked in the surf. Maybe it would be something to have running but again, an attacking white is not stpped by the electrical field at all.

Some very important shark encounter rules, read and memorize:
1. do NOT hang around rookeries and haul-outs
2. do NOT ever approach within 200 meters (the Death Zone) of a rookery or haul-out. Not only are there rules protecting marine mammals but that distance around the rookery is where the white shark preferentially prowls and strikes.
3. observe the life around you for indications of a predator...sea birds suddenly flying over a small area, nervous seals or sea lions on the rocks looking at the water and occasionally at you, seals and sealions side-by-side on the same rocks, get the hell out of there (occasionally bang your bow a few times with your paddle just to reinforce the idea that you are not a sealion or seal.
4. do NOT ever approach a shark kill in the water, or a blood plume in the water (a shark hit underwater, or it's prey dragged under). Paddle as fast as you can away and keep paddling for a kilometer, the shark is close by and will defend its kill by utterly destroying your kayak, leaving you in the water, and I will gurantee the shark will then return to hit you fatally.
5. if you see a sudden huge disturbance in the water, paddle as fast as you can away for a kilometer. That's most likely a shark hitting its prey. If it missed it's prei it's still on strike mode, you want to leave the area as fast as you can paddle. You may want to bang away at your bow a couple times just to reinforce the idea that your aren't food escaping.
6. when checked out by a cruising white shark do NOT poke at it with anything. If you do this that slow moving shark will defend itself with an overwhelming attack that will end up with you in the water and bit. Enjoy the shark visit and when it's cruising away, you might want to then bang bow of your kayak a few times hard with your paddle. It's a good idea to reinforce the artificial nature of kayaks to the shark.

A word in banging the bow of the kayak with the paddle. This makes an unnatural sound in the air and water that seems to reinforce the idea that the kayak is big as the shark and something it doesn't know and should avoid, or at least puts you into the not-food/waste-of-time-and-energy category decision byu the shark. I have personally used this on several white shark encounters while paddling (Pt. Arena, California; Gaviota, California; twice off Guadalupe Island, Mexico). In each and every case the shark swam off a minute later.


ericos said...

I believe the surface area and shape of a vessel is what plays an important role in preventing a shark attack. A 4-4.5 meter dinghy at 1.5 meters wide would less likely tempt a shark than a 5 meter kayak with a width of around 80cms. If you do your research on google you will find numerous accounts of shark attacks on 5 meter plus kayaks. Just one such example in the following link


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