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Santa Monica Nonprofit Puts Fear of Sharks in Perspective


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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

May 26, 2017 -- As people enter the natural water, including Santa Monica Bay, this Memorial Day weekend, they might be doing it with a heightened fear of sharks.

This fear is due to recent sightings that have caused some area beach closures and even an attack on a woman near San Clemente.

Dana Murray Roeber, staff scientist for the Santa Monica-based nonprofit Heal the Bay, put these fears in perspective in a blog posted on the group’s website this week.

“Eating a hot dog poses a greater danger to life and limb than any shark,” wrote Roeber, who noted there have only been 13 reported fatal shark attacks off California since the 1920s.

She wrote that the uptick in shark sightings in Santa Monica Bay is “due to a combination of abundant prey and warm water as summer comes.”

But this is not necessarily a bad thing, according to Roeber, because as members of the top of the food chain, sharks “keep populations of other fish healthy and ecosystems in balance.”

She suggests you can avoid being part of this food chain by taking some precautions: avoid areas with known effluents or sewage, as well as spots used by fishermen and those showing signs of fish feeding activity.

If you spot a larger shark in the ocean, Roeber recommends leaving the area “calmly” and making no attempt to provoke the animal.

“Report your shark sighting, with as much detail possible, to local lifeguards,” Roeber wrote.

And if you are one of the unlucky few to be bitten by a shark, you should respond “proactively.”

Roeber wrote, “Hitting a shark on the nose, ideally with an inanimate object, usually results in the shark temporarily curtailing its attack.”


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