When we hear or think of sharks, we assume the worst. The Jaws theme song comes into our heads along with the image of a great white shark looking for prey. But this is far from reality, at least if you believe shark-bite victim Guillermo Gonzalez and shark expert and advocate Yannis Papastamatiou.
Florida registers 50 percent of shark bites in the nation. The vast majority are similar to that of Gonzalez. He was swimming in the ocean when he saw a shark swim calmly beneath him, so he decided to return to shore. Then the shark bumped into his feet. He rushed out of the water and only then realized he had been bitten.
Most of these encounters are due to the shark’s curiosity and can be prevented. FIU professor Papastamatiou explains that not panicking is key to preventing a bite. If you see a shark, he said, swim calmly back to shore. The shark will likely not harm you. He also explained that an increase in shark bites over the years is due to an increase in people going into the water.
Although Gonzalez was terrified, he learned a valuable lesson. “I just felt a deeper connection to the ocean in a way,” he said. “Definitely not mad toward the sharks or the ocean. I will go back.”