Close-up encounters like this hope to shed light on what is fact, and what is fiction in the shark world.
With two major attacks off Florida beaches the last month, sharks are back in the spotlight–unfortunately once again, as a menace to the public. It’s hard to deny the danger sharks pose, but when some time and thought is spent looking at sharks overall, a different picture is often painted.With this in mind, perhaps we should re-examine some of the most popular myths that keep circulating about sharks–and, the facts, which are not always so well known. Sharks are not exactly our friends, but they are no-doubt an integral part of our planet’s watery ecosystems.

MYTH: Sharks will eat just about any bait.

FACT: While some sharks will eat just about any chunk of fish or meat used for bait, most sharks are a lot more finicky, and prefer a lively fish. Even more so, sharks that are fished for as gamefish on the flats will only bite a bait that naturally occurs in that area.

MYTH: Sharks are less likely to kill somebody swimming in the surf than a Portuguese man-o-war.

FACT: This might be true, man-o-wars can be quite dangerous, but statistics are hard to come up with. In reality though, the odds of a shark attack go up over 1000% if a swimmer ventures into muddy water with large schools of baitfish in the same area.

MYTH: Sharks eat all the time.

FACT: Sharks eat periodically depending upon their metabolism and the availability of food in the area. Some sharks, like the lemon shark eat less than two percent of their body weight per day.

MYTH: Shark meat doesn’t taste good, and is sometimes is poisonous.

FACT: Although there have been a few random reports of people being poisoned by shark meat, the meat from the majority of sharks is edible and delicious when properly handled and prepared. Some sharks are actually one of the better tasting fish in the sea.

MYTH: Sharks attack more at night.

FACT: Sharks may feed more at night, but very few attacks occur at night. Of course this might be due to a tiny percentage of people actually swimming or diving at night.

MYTH: Sharks are poor gamefish and not worth fishing for.

FACT: Sharks make a very good gamefish, with fighting ability up there with most others. Some sharks, the Mako in particular, are a prized gamefish, known for their outstanding runs and jumps. On the flats, small blacktip are often targeted, and respond with drag-sizzling bursts of speed.

MYTH: Sharks have to swim constantly to survive.

FACT: Some do, but many others can respire by pumping water over their gills through opening and closing their mouths while at rest on the bottom. Just don’t swim up to a motionless shark on the bottom, a startled shark can be quite dangerous.

MYTH: Sharks are trash fish of very little value.

FACT: Sharks are a critical part of marine ecosystems, especially in keeping the food chain in order. Without sharks, various species of fish would be very susceptible to disease and over population.