Why Do Sharks Attack?

Shark attacks are an infrequent occurrence, but when they do occur, they can be incredibly shocking regardless.

If you’re curious to learn more about the behavior of sharks, you might be wondering: Why do sharks attack?

Why Do Sharks Attack?

In this article, we will cover some key information about why sharks attack.

So, if you’re nervous about going in the water, hopefully you can gain a better understanding. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Why Sharks Attack?

Shark attacks are a relatively rare occurrence. However, when they do occur, the results can be devastating. So, why do sharks attack?

There are various reasons why sharks attack, but it’s worth noting that research is still ongoing regarding this topic.


Sharks, like many other animals, are curious creatures, and they explore the world with their mouths!

Their mouths are sensory organs, meaning that sharks “mouth” unfamiliar objects that they encounter in the water as a way to examine them and determine whether they’re suitable to eat.

This means that if a shark was to come across a human limb dangling in the water, it might just be examining it to determine the fat content of its potential prey and whether it’s worth eating.

Bearing this in mind, shark encounters can occur from them assessing whether it’s worth eating a human, not actively seeking out to eat one.

Poor Visibility

Another reason why shark attacks might occur is because of poor visibility.

Murky and choppy water makes it challenging for the shark to smell, see, and identify their prey.


Another factor that can come into question is shark territoriality.

Despite the fact that they don’t necessarily have territories in the same way that other predators do, there is a hierarchy amongst sharks that is simple.

The biggest sharks get the best hunting spots, and intruders are evicted no matter the cost.

As a result, some shark encounters might simply be down to their natural instinct to protect their food source against other sharks in the water.

The Time Of Day

Another reason that a shark attack occurs could be down to the time of day that you’re in the water.

Sharks tend to hunt during dusk and dawn, as well as throughout the night.

People who are in the water surfing or swimming at this time are naturally at a greater risk of an attack, as this is when they’re around and are hunting.

While these are some potential reasons that sharks attack, whatever the cause of shark attacks is, we are a far greater threat to sharks than they are to humans.

What’s A Shark’s Diet Like?

This depends on the shark in question!

However, sharks primarily eat and hunt for marine mammals, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, and even other sharks!

When it comes to white sharks, which present the biggest threat to humans, they mostly prey on seals, sea turtles, dolphins, sea lions, as well as small whales.

However, it’s also important to note that white sharks are opportunistic scavengers, and will thus feed on carcasses left by basking sharks and whales.

How Frequently Do Shark Attacks Happen?

Sharks are apex predators. However, while they get a bad rep in the press, shark attacks are actually very infrequent.

This is even more true when you compare the number of shark attacks with the number of sharks that are killed by humans every single year.

To put this into context, the average number of unprovoked shark attacks between 2013-2017 was 84.

When compared to the estimated 100 million sharks that are killed by humans every single year by the fishing industry, it is clear that we pose a much bigger threat to sharks than they do to us.

You might be wondering why this is. Well, shark products have a market that is estimated at almost $1 billion every year.

So, while sharks might be scary due to their reputation and teeth, and you wouldn’t necessarily want to be in the water with one, we’re a much bigger danger.

A Note On Shark Safety

If you live somewhere that sharks are present frequently, you will need to ensure that you’re following some basic shark safety rules.

These include but are not limited to:

Avoid Going In The Water At Certain Times

As we’ve already discussed, swimming or surfing during dusk, dawn, or during the night puts you at risk when you live somewhere where sharks occupy the coast.

Be Mindful Of The Conditions

Before you head out for a day at the beach to do some swimming, be mindful of the conditions.

You should avoid going in the water during poor conditions, such as turbid or murky water.

This comes down to the fact that the bad conditions can impact the shark’s sense of smell as well as their visibility.

Checking the conditions beforehand, and planning ahead can ensure that the risk of a shark attack is minimized as a result.

While these shark safety rules are good to follow, the risk of you being attacked by a shark are slim.

Just be sure to do your research of the location where you intend to go in the water beforehand, especially if it’s a new place!

In Summary

So, there you have it. Hopefully after reading this article you have a better understanding of why sharks attack.

That being said, shark attacks still remain a relatively rare occurrence, and it’s important to remember that humans kill an inhumane number of sharks every single year.

Mikayla Adams

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