Marine Myths and Common Misconceptions About Marine Life
You may have seen movies like "Jaws" or "The Deep" where sea creatures attack humans out of pure visciousness. Hopefully, this will clear up these common misconceptions. There is really no reason to be afraid of scuba diving because you think some form of marine life may attack you! Despite rumors, most marine life only react in defense when they feel threatened.
Shark attacks are very rare. Case studies prove that most attacks are the result of mistaken identity. Divers are rarely . attacked as surfers and kyakers are more often the target. Why? Look at it from a shark's perspective: from underneath the surfers and kyakers look like a shark's favorite meal, seals or sea-lions. Most sharks, although curious, are actually scared of divers. However, if you're spearfishing, this is a time to be cautious. Sharks can sense the blood and the vibrations that the dying fish give off in the water over great distances. I suggest you remove any speared fish from the water immediately in order to prevent problems.
Barracuda have been accused of seriosly injuring people. Once again, any animal that was responsible for an attack was probably provoked in some way by the victim prior to the attack. One of the biggest falocies is that barracuda attack shiny objects. Well, barracuda do eat shiny fish such as silversides, however, if you think about it, everything a scuba diver wears is shiny: your tank valve, regulator, etc., etc. I do not believe this should be a concern. I have dived with barracuda all over the world. In Miami, we have very large barracuda which look very mean, but they are harmless. I wear all my jewelry when scuba diving and with over 5,000 dives I have never seen nor experienced an attack. Barracuda are very curious and they often follow divers around, perhaps for a free hand-out. Once again, if you are spearfishing, I suggest you remove any speared fish from the water immediately in order to prevent any problems as barracuda have been known to steal your speared fish.
Moray Eels do not attack unless provoked. Eels are nearsighted, color-blind and are scavengers, therefore they do not intentionally attack humans. They are guilty of making mistakes such as misidentifying fingers as hotdogs. Anytime you feed wild animals you must take precautions. This compares to feeding wild animals in the forest or jungle. We all remember the contraversy of feeding the bears in Yellowstone National Park. It is now against the law.
Stingrays do not visciously attack humans. The most common way to be stung by the barb on the tail of the ray is by accidentally stepping on one which is well camouflaged, buried in the sand. This may occur along the beach, or in shallow sandy areas. Be careful when doing a shore dive. You may to perform the "stingray shuffle" which is a shuffling of the feet so as to scare away any rays in the area.
Manta Rays have the undeserved reputation of being called "devil rays." Perhaps this came about from their appearance, however, it could not be further from the truth. Manta Rays are very gentle creatures who actually seem to enjoy the company of humans. Please remember, though, if you are lucky enough to see one, do not attempt to ride it as this is an unpleasant experience for the ray, as we weigh a great deal with our full set of scuba gear on. There is a technique known as "gliding" with the rays where you can actually pick up and ride the current it is creating as it swims along. With this perfected technique you can actually come in very close contact without harming the ray. Mantas are often seen scooping up plankton in rich waters.
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PADI Instructor # 26858 since 1987
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