• One of the larger sharks found in our sounds and nearshore waters are blacktips. They can grow to up to 8 feet. They are found in coastal waters from spring through fall and are particularly active in our sounds during the summer months. They have black tips on all of their fins except their anal fin.
• The blacknose shark is a relatively small shark that only reaches about 5 feet. They have a noticeable dusky smudge or “moustache” on the tip of their snout, which is more prominent on juveniles.
Some beach-goers fear sharks, but despite the peak shark activity and influx of visitors to our beaches in the summer, unprovoked shark incidents are extremely rare along the Georgia coast. According to the International Shark Attack File, there have only been 15 confirmed unprovoked shark bites since the program began keeping records in 1837.
Georgia has a much shorter coastline than its neighbors to the north and south, and many of its islands and beaches are not accessible by vehicle, which may contribute to lower encounters. Even though the odds of being bitten by a shark are extremely low, some common-sense tips while visiting Georgia’s coast can go a long way in further reducing one’s risk.
Tips to keep in mind while visiting:
• Avoid being in the water at dawn or dusk when sharks are most active, especially during warmer times of the year. Remember the saying, “Between the months of five through nine, go swimming in the ocean from nine to five.”
• Always swim in groups. There is safety in numbers.
• Do not swim or paddle too far from shore, away from the assistance of lifeguards or friends.
• Do not enter the water if bleeding because a shark’s sense of smell is highly sensitive.
• Wearing shiny jewelry is discouraged because the reflected light resembles the sheen of silver fish skin.
• Avoid areas where fishermen might be chumming, like public piers.
• Keep an eye out for signs of bait fishes or feeding activity. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such action.
• Sightings of dolphins do not indicate the absence of sharks; sharks and dolphins feed on the same food items.
• Use extra caution when swimming in murky water with low visibility and avoid brightly colored clothing as sharks see contrast particularly well.
• Refrain from excess splashing and be cautious if swimming with pets due to their erratic movements.
• Exercise caution when occupying the area between sandbars or near steep drop-offs — these are favorite hangouts for sharks.
• Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present and evacuate the water if sharks are seen while there.
Bryan Fluech is the associate director of extension at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, a program committed to improving the environmental and economic health of the Georgia coast through research, education and outreach. Learn more at gacoast.uga.edu.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Watch for these sharks in summertime Coastal Georgia waters