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Q & A

Question & Answer Session

Question 2

 

Zach, a surfer from Northern California emailed me and asked "The myth is that a dolphin can kill a shark, and therefore it is safe to surf where there are dolphins. Is this true?"

Good question Zach!

The short answer is Yes and No, dolphins often do chase off sharks, the big males keeping them away from the young and females, but once out of the immediate way they're not worried, so its possible to still have Sharks around even if you see dolphins. There have been cases of dolphins helping out humans who have been attacked by a

Shark, however in some cases being around a pod of dolphins may even make you MORE prone to attack since you may look like a weak dolphin all on your own.

The best thing is never to assume anything, follow standard precautions like :

-Avoid swimming at dawn and dusk

-Avoid being alone or left alone from a group

-Avoid turbid (murky) water and more, watch my video "Shark Sense" for more tips.

I've discussed the issue in more detail below.

In more detail :


The answer (as far as I'm aware based on what I've read and seen a little of) is Yes ... and no!
Dolphins can kill a shark, especially smallish sharks, though rarely do, but they will regularly chase them away, especially as the larger males usually form a position on the outskirts of the pod and defend it, I've seen film of them chasing away sharks and making them back off a little, but equally many sharks follow dolphin pods as they pick off older or ill dolphins (though they will usually try to defend the weaker members of a pod as dolphins are extremely social!). Dolphins are often prey to Sharks e.g. Great Whites will prey on fit dolphins. Some contend that Dolphins won't chase off larger sharks, there is evidence for this but also there are observations of Dolphins chasing off largish Oceanic White Tips. Seals have been observed sparring back at Great Whites and nipping tails of Great whites when in the open ocean when a fast seal has little chance of being caught by a GW, its possible that dolphins may try the same if they see it first. The largest species of Dolphin - Killer Whales have been seen killing fairly large sharks and playing with them (but remember a killer whale is a lot bigger than your average Dolphin!). Bottle nosed dolphins are pretty big and very social so are capable of deterring some larger sharks as a group.

There is one case in the late 1990s of a guy getting attacked by an Oceanic White Tip BECAUSE he was swimming with dolphins in Sharm El Sheikh, egypt. The report I read said he and three others had been snorkelling off Ras Mohammed with a pod of dolphins, the other two left the water and he was left in the water, shortly after an Oceanic White Tip shark hit him and took a fair bite.
T hey believe to the shark he looked like a weakened dolphin, not part of the main group and left alone, isolated from his buddies, prime food!

However the interesting bit on the end of that story is they got him back on the boat (can't remember if he survived or not) but the witnessess reported the dolphins harassing the shark and chasing it away!!

So yes dolphins can and will chase sharks away from themselves, but VERY RARELY and THE PRESENCE OF DOLPHINS DOESN'T MEAN THERE AREN'T SHARKS AROUND AND IS NO GUARANTEE - PRACTICE COMMON SENSE, other times they feed right next to sharks (some thing using the sharks and vice versa to keep the baitfish tightly balled up). But you cannot rely on them looking after your interests (though sometimes they will, stories of dolphins having saved people from drowning abound).

Last weekend I was very tempted to get in with a big pod of dolphins around my boat feeding at dusk in the Pensacola pass in florida, BUT resisted temptation since I know its also a favoured haunt for bull sharks and splashing around snorkelling at dusk is not a great idea in low vis water (though I've done it many times), so you should use your judgement.
Certainly if we're talking surfing and dolphins are around, chances are you might be in California, well dolphins do occasionaly become lunch for great whites as they sneak up on them from below.

My advice on surfing, talk to the locals, avoid dawn and dusk, avoid if anglers are fishing nearby and using chum right next to you, avoid really turbid water.


T here was an amazing piece of film caught recently of a HUGE great white coming between a bunch of surfers, came right up to a board to investigate, but vis looked to be good enough that the GW realised he wasn't food and swam on. Proving (at least to me) that the mistaken ID theory is very valid in many circumstances. But seeing dolphins does not guarantee the absence of sharks (they may be on the fringes of the dolphin pod), though to be fair I generally feel a little better with dolphins around.


LINKS & OTHER INFORMATION

 

The Shark Attack at Ras Mohammed (Egypt) while diving with dolphins....

 

Extract from the EXCELLENT web page for Ras Mohammed -

"So what about the shark attacks at Ras Mohamed ?
Surprisingly, with the number of sharks that are found at Ras Mohamed and the number of divers, snorkellers, and swimmers here, there are almost no attacks here at all. Maybe the sharks got used to the divers but it is mostly to do with the fact that sensible interraction on behalf of the divers based on mutual respect is what makes this place a perfectly safe place to dive and enjoy this beautiful creature. There was this one incident which took place on Tuesday the 23rd of July, 1996. It was 6 p.m. in the evening, when the divers on the Israeli-owned dive boat, Jadran, observed a pod of dolphins at the mouth of Marsa Bereika 1 km from shore, as they were heading north from Ras Mohamed to Sharm-el-Sheikh. The Israeli owner of the boat, Dani Hermon, decided to stop and urged the divers to have a swim with these dolphins. It was obvious that he was a novice to the marine world as it should have been clear to him that all conditions where clearly against doing such a thing: Sunset, open sea, dolphins, and shark intensive waters. In any event he himself and two British divers, Harry Hayward, and Martin Christopher Richardson were the only ones that decided to go for the swim. Hermon and and Hayward swam for a few minutes leaving Martin Richardson behind with the dolphins. The dolphins started swimming away when the shark, an oceanic whitetip struck. Richardson was bitten a few times and jolted up in the air until the pod of dolphins returned, surrounded him and flapped their fins against the surface in a protective manner which chased the shark away. Martin Richardson had sustained deep bites on the back, shoulder, and chest which resulted in a broken rib and a punctured lung. He was immediately taken to Sharm-el-Sheikh where he was given first aid and transported to a military hospital in El Tor, the capital city of South Sinai. There he underwent some critical surgery and has now fully recovered to tell his tale.

You can see the rest of their article by clicking on this link. Incidentally I've dived all along this coast and seen a few nice sharks, but rarely, you really do feel lucky when you see them and you only normally get a glimpse and they're gone! I would also HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend diving the Sinai in the Red Sea, I've been to the red sea 8 or 9 times.

 

Extract from BBC - Dolphins save man from Shark

"A man in Australia said a group of dolphins saved his life by chasing away man-eating sharks.
 Click here for the fishy quiz!

Fisherman Grant Dickson was left stranded in the sea off the coast of Queensland after his boat sank in stormy weather.
His two other crew members are feared dead.
Mr Dickson said he was left clinging to his upturned boat and could see sharks circling around him. He feared it was only a matter of time before they attacked him.
Grateful Fact File
Sharks
350 species of shark
3 species attack humans
More people die from bee stings
Swim at 2.5 km per hour
They have very good eyesight
Shark fossils date from 300 million years ago
But at the last minute, a group of dolphins appeared and scared off the sharks.
He was in the sea for several hours, before he was rescued by a passing ship.
Mr Dickson is now in hospital recovering from his ordeal, but is very grateful to the friendly dolphins who helped save him!"

OTHER LINKS

1.Dolphins vs Sharks - Part of the best Sharksite I've found.

2. Whales vs Sharks - Interesting Site

3. Dolphins and Whales - Short

4. Another Shark Page - Looks Good

5. Advice for Surfers and Swimmers on Avoiding Attack - Excellent Aussie Site

6. Advice on avoiding Attack - Great South African Site

7. Dolphins save man from Shark - BBC News Story

Dolphins and Sharks: A Nonfiction Companion to Dolphins at Daybreak (Magic Tree House Research Guide Series)
Dolphins and Sharks: A Nonfiction Companion to Dolphins at Daybreak (Magic Tree House Research Guide Series)