When most people think of sharks in the water, their immediate reaction is fear. They might experience an icy feeling that something could be lurking beneath them, watching them and waiting.
However, what about when divers think of sharks in the water? Marine conservationists? The feeling is instead giddy excitement!
These animals have been so misrepresented in media that some people will avoid water entirely for fear of encountering a shark. Sure, sharks are impressive apex predators, but are humans really that appealing to them?
Let’s have a look at the figures. According to International Shark Attack File, in 2018 only 5 people worldwide suffered fatal encounters with sharks, in comparison to the 100 million sharks killed by humans. In the United States, the chance of being killed by a shark is less than 1 in 264 million. Statistically speaking, you are more likely to be killed by a champagne cork, a lightning bolt or a sand hole collapse.
Tenerife is home to many different species of shark, and while most species generally avoid the tourist areas close to shore, we do occasionally see them from the tourist boats we use to conduct our cetacean surveys. When we give our training presentation and mention sharks, there are always a few shocked expressions, but please remember that they are not something to be feared! If you are lucky enough to see a Mako or Hammerhead shark on the boats, you will be the envy of lots of us staff members. I’ve been dying to see a Hammerhead here for 7 months but I just keep missing them!
Meanwhile, divers may be lucky enough to encounter Angel or Reef sharks. Angel sharks are more commonly seen on night dives and the ones closest to shore are typically babies less than 1m long. They are very passive creatures, and not considered to be dangerous. The baby angel sharks dig themselves into the sand during the day, so that they are almost completely invisible.
During my Divemaster and Instructor training there was a lot of sitting during the dive practice demonstrations. A few times I felt a slight wiggle underneath my fins, and lifted them up to reveal an Angel Shark grumpily swimming off – sorry mate!