Virginia Beach, Va. - If you’ve been swimming at a Hampton Roads-area beach, you probably have swam a lot closer to a shark than you may think.
Our area is home to many different kinds of sharks and some are able to swim within just a few feet of shore.
“We're in their habitat. We're in their living space. There are ways to precaution ourselves and be careful, when we do enter the water to safely enjoy the ocean,” says Rachel Metz, Director of Live Exhibits at the Virginia Aquarium.
There are three main types of sharks that you could see in shallow waters off the coasts of Hampton Roads – the dogfish shark, the sandbar shark and sand tiger sharks.
They’re smaller species of shark and also pretty docile, but experts say if you do see one of these sharks near you, you want to get out of the water quickly and quietly.
“Don’t splash around, don’t make a lot of noise splashing on the water, because what that will do is attract the sharks to you if you’re splashing and making a lot of movement like a prey item may,” says Metz.
Experts say our local sharks are more scared of humans than anything. But they do say to avoid any type of run-in with a shark, don’t swim near fishing piers or alone. And also avoid swimming when the sun is rising or setting.
"That tends to be when animals are most likely to feed. Sharks have an advantage during that time of day because it's not as brightly lit and they can see better," Metz says.
Overall, experts say having sharks near our shores is a good sign. It means our waterways are healthy ecosystems.
But swimming with sharks will always be nerve-wracking.
Just remember to stay calm. And if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.