There’s been an awful lot of shark stories in the news lately and with the Discovery Channel's Shark Week starting this Sunday, July 28, it’s a great time to dive into shark facts not fiction.

Before getting too worried about sharks during ocean or sound side swims, summer beach visitors should consider educating themselves about these sea creatures.

Thanks to North Carolina Sea Grant, there’s a smart, Shark Sense brochure that gives a surface view of sharks found along the Atlantic and Gulf regions. These three-fold brochures are available at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head and the N. C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island as well as online at http://bit.ly/2xtGdQK.

According to Shark Sense, these sleek, fast swimmers have been living in the worlds’ oceans for 400 million years. Along the way, they’ve developed a reputation as a dangerous fish.

But how dangerous are they to the average person who may only swim in the ocean a handful of times a year? They’re really not, according to George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File in Florida.

“Bees, wasps and snakes are responsible for more fatalities a year,” he said. “The reality is that, on the list of potential dangers encountered in aquatic recreation, sharks are at the bottom of the list.”

Some scientists believe that there have been more accounts of shark attacks in the news recently for two main reasons — the human population is growing and more humans than ever are swimming in the ocean, and attacks that perhaps weren’t even reported before are now big time news.

One thing is for sure, you can reduce your chance of a shark encounter by following a few common-sense rules: stay in a group, do not swim or paddle too far away from shore, do not swim if you are bleeding, avoid shiny jewelry and stay away from anglers using bait or chumming.

Perhaps the most important tip comes from Robert Hueter of Mote Marine Laboratory. “Between the months of five through nine, go swimming in the ocean from nine to five,” he said.

Shark Sense reports that “more than 350 different species of sharks inhabit the world’s oceans. They come in all sizes and shapes — from the huge whale shark that grows up to 40 feet long to the lantern dogfish that reaches only 7.9 inches.”

Visitors to the Outer Banks may see fishermen pulling sharks in from the sea. Frequently, they are catching smooth or spiny dogfish. Additional sharks swimming in the waters surrounding these barrier islands include sandbar, sand tiger, sharpnose, blacktip, spinner, dusky, hammerhead, bull, and tiger.

For more on sharks, check out these resources: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/sharks, www.mote.org, www.vims.edu.

Shark fishing is not permitted at Jennette’s Pier. For those who want to view live sharks, visit the N. C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island just 15 minutes west of Jennette’s Pier.

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