x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sharks only bite by mistake, expert says

Most of them are small and harmless, such as the milk shark, but others including the bull shark have a reputation for aggression.

DUBAI // The UAE is home to dozens of shark species. Most of them are small and harmless, such as the milk shark, but others including the bull shark have a reputation for aggression.

Conservationists say, however, that people should not be afraid to swim.

Steve Kaiser, the vice president of marine sciences and engineering at Atlantis, The Palm, says there is a 20 per cent chance that anyone swimming for 15 minutes or more will have a shark pass by unnoticed.

"There are a lot of sharks in the UAE, but I've never heard of anyone being bitten," Mr Kaiser said. "If you think they are menacing creatures, just waiting for you to stick your toes in the water, that's just not true.

"The idea of a dangerous shark just exists in people's minds. In most cases, when they bite people it's just mistaken identity. They think your hand is a bit of squid or fish, and they spit it out afterwards.

"Most people are accidental victims. There's no such thing as a shark with a bad attitude. They just want food."

Even so, he said that staff at Atlantis do not feed the sharks by hand.

"We don't want our sharks to associate food with humans," Mr Kaiser said.

He said the most dangerous species of sharks don't dwell in the sea. "They're called land sharks. Mostly they try and sell you used cars."

* Martin Croucher