Preventing shark attacks: What you need to know

A bull shark bit a man’s legs over the weekend while he was swimming off of a Florida beach. He survived with injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

The idea of a shark attack can be terrifying, and there has been an increase in reports of West Coast shark sightings and attacks.

“White shark populations on the West Coast had declined over several decades, but indication right now is that they’re beginning to rise again ever so slowly thanks to federal and state protection of the species,” International Shark Attack File (ISAF) director George Buress recently told Fox News.

Last year, there were 84 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks globally – a dip from the 98 unprovoked attacks in 2015, ISAF’s website says. 56 of the 2016 attacks were in the United States — compared to 59 unprovoked attacks the year before.

Though ISAF says the risk of being killed in a shark attack is one in 3,748,067, here’s what you can do to prevent such an event, and fight back if need be.

How can I prevent a shark from biting me?

There are a couple of things you can do.

University of Miami professor and marine ecologist Dr. Neil Hammerschlag says to avoid swimming in areas with “an unusual amount of fish life,” where sharks may be searching for food.

You should also avoid being in the water at nighttime, dawn, or dusk. “It appears that sharks may mistake people or bite people unintentionally,” he told Fox News, explaining that it’s harder for them to discriminate when it’s dark out.

People should also avoid swimming alone, and stay in groups. “Sharks tend to target isolated prey,” Hammerschlag said.

I see a shark – what should I do?

Keep your distance – do not attempt to shoo, corner, or touch it.

“Don’t act like shark food,” Hammerschlag recommends. He says that if you encounter a shark, do not run away. You should also keep eye contact with the shark.

“Follow it around if it circles you, let it know that it sees you,” he said. When trying to get away, “keep facing the shark, but move backwards slowly.”

What’s the best way to fight back if a shark is biting me?

Most sharks bite and release, Hammerschlag says. “In the unlikely event they don’t release,” he says that you should “fight back” and strike the shark’s gills, eyes and nose.

Hammerschlag also said that shark bites are “really rare,” usually minor and do not require hospitalization.