A return to the water this summer raises a number of potential concerns for beach-goers, including what may be lurking underneath the waves.
Recent stories of sharks pinging off the coast have swimmers on high alert. So, we put our VERIFY fact checkers on some common beliefs about sharks.
You may believe that when it comes to shark attacks, all beaches are equally dangerous. But according to Chip Harshaw with the Virginia Aquarium, only about five to 10 people die per year from a shark attack. And the likelihood of one occurring in Hampton Roads is extremely low.
So, we can VERIFY that this belief is FALSE.
”They're not that common," says Harshaw. "We don't see them that much around here.”
It's also important to not judge a shark by its appearance. Some assume any shark you encounter is a threat. But Harshaw says with over 400 shark species, only a small number can be dangerous.
So, that presumption is also FALSE.
“The largest shark species, the whale shark that grows to 40 feet long... it's a plankton feeder," says Harshaw. "It eats the smallest food item in the world. It's a microscopic shrimp."
Appropriately, you should be less worried about a shark attack in Hampton Roads. However, don't completely let your guard down.
”Around fishing piers, if people are using bait that might attract other types of animals," says Harshaw. "So stay away from those areas.”
So, we are able to VERIFY that shark attacks are more likely to occur around fishing piers and at certain times of the day.
"Don't swim early in the evening at dusk or after dark," says Harshaw.
Although you're more likely to win the lottery than be fatally attacked by a shark in Hampton Roads, it's still important to take precautions to minimize your risk and stay safe in the water.