Aim for the gills, and 6 other tips that could save your life during a shark attack

Cue the "Jaws" theme music.

Inevitably every summer, several news outlets will report on the harrowing encounters between sharks and humans. While the odds of you actually being attacked by a shark are slim — 1 in 3,750,000 — it's hard not to think about it while you're in the ocean.

Dr. Charles Bangley works at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the Fish Ecology Lab and has a couple tips that will keep you more conscientious of your surroundings and prepared for the worst. 

One thing he emphasizes is taking note of where you're swimming. You want to make sure to avoid areas where there are large schools of fish, so keep a lookout for where local fishermen are hanging out and for any birds diving in particular spots. 

While it may seem like a no-brainer, making sure that you're swimming in clear water and in groups can also ensure you won't be caught off guard by any unfriendly creature swimming by.

18 PHOTOS
Weirdest sharks, whales & sea life
See Gallery
Weirdest sharks, whales & sea life

Close up of bull shark.

(Getty Images/Flickr RF)

This massive whale shark slowly swam right at me just below the surface in crystal clear water just off of Molokini Crater, Maui, Hawaii.

A whale shark, nearly six meters (20 feet) long, swims with its huge mouth open near the surface of the plankton-rich water of Donsol town, 24 May 2007. The whale sharks (scientific name: Rhinchodon typus) have been slaughtered in some other parts of the country before, but environmentalist came to the rescue of the endangered giant fish and developed an eco tourism program for Donsol, turning what was once a backward fishing town in the eastern Philippines into a prime tourist spot offering visitors a swim with the whale sharks and transforming local fishermen into whale spotters, dive guides and whale protectors.

(SCOTT TUASON/AFP/Getty Images)

Tiburon prehistorico filmado vivo en Japan

(kainita/Flickr)
Basking shark or Cetorhinus maximus 

(Getty Images)

In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.

(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)

This picture taken on August 1, 2014 shows a dead whale shark being carried on a tractor in a seafood wholesale market in Xiangzhi township in Quanzhou, east China's Fujian province. Local fishermen caught the whale shark which they thought was a 'sea monster' and reported to local police after returning from the sea, local media reported.

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

This picture taken on August 1, 2014 shows a dead whale shark being carried on a tractor in a seafood wholesale market in Xiangzhi township in Quanzhou, east China's Fujian province. Local fishermen caught the whale shark which they thought was a 'sea monster' and reported to local police after returning from the sea, local media reported.

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.

(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)

In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.

(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)

Common Thresher Shark (Alopias vulpinus) swimming above a coral reef, Big Brother Island, Egypt.

(© imagebroker / Alamy)

Thresher shark 

(Raven_Denmark/Flickr)

Greenland shark

(Photoshot Holdings Ltd / Alamy)

Greenland Sleeper Shark, Somniosus microcephalus, and diver. St. Lawrence River estuary, Canada. Wild & unrestrained shark. 

(Doug Perrine via Getty Images)

Greenland Sleeper Shark, Somniosus microcephalus, swimming over field of plumose anemones, Metridium senile. Parasitic Copepod, Ommatokoita elongata, attached to eye. St. Lawrence River estuary, Canada.

(Doug Perrine via Getty Images)

Cornish fisherman Chris Bean's crewmate Mario 'Chino' Rios brings aboard a monkfish (which was later sold directly to the exclusive Paternoster Chop House in the heart of the City of London) caught using overnight nets, a few miles out to sea near Helford on February 25 2009 in Cornwall, England. The Cornish-born 61-year-old skipper of the vessel, the Lady Hamilton - which he had built a year after he started fishing professionally in 1972 - fishes most days, catching fish such as monkfish, sole and red mullet, as well as crab, using traditional, sustainable and environmentally friendly methods, which he then sells directly to local and national customers - including well known sushi eateries and exclusive restaurants in the heart of London. After being caught, the fish is brought ashore at Helford - which was at the centre of a planning row with local fishermen and second home-owners about the construction of a new jetty - is boxed in ice and sent by courier directly to national buyers, often leading to the fish being presented on the plates of restaurant customers in the capital less than 24 hours after being caught of the coast of Cornwall.

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.

(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)

A 130-centimetre long goblin shark swims in a tank at the Tokyo Sea Life Park's aquarium in this handout photo taken on January 25, 2007 by the park in Tokyo. The Goblin Shark, a deep sea "living fossil" shark, was caught off the shallows of Tokyo Bay and survived barely a week in its new environment. The shark was the second deep sea shark to have been found in the same month.

(REUTERS/Tokyo Sea Life Park/Handout)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

If you do find yourself in the rare position where you're face to face with a shark, Dr. Bangley says that the common advice to "punch it in the nose" won't be as effective as going straight for the gills or the eyes — the reason being, that a shark's nose is a very hard part of its body, while the eyes and gills are more vulnerable and more likely to hurt.

Again, the odds of facing a shark head on are rare. In 2018, there were only 66 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks on humans, which is the lowest it's been in years. It's even more rare for the attack to be fatal — last year, the U.S. experienced the most shark attacks, and out of the 32 cases, only one was fatal.

For more information and tips about shark attacks, including what the biggest misconception about sharks is, watch the interview above with Dr. Bangley. 

13 PHOTOS
Different kinds of sharks
See Gallery
Different kinds of sharks
(Photo via Getty)
Silky sharks in Jardines de la Reina archipelago in Cuba. (Photo via Getty)
Snorkelling with Whale Sharks at Exmouth, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, the largest fish in the ocean, and a vegetarian. (Photo: Anthony Marsh, Alamy)
(Photo via Getty)
(Photo via Getty)
(Photo via Getty)
(Photo via Getty)
(Photo via Getty)
Sharks are a group of fish characterized by a cartilaginous skeleton, five to seven gill slits on the sides of the head, and pectoral fins that are not fused to the head. (Photo via Getty)
Caribbean reef sharks, Carcharhinus perezi, dusk in bahamas. (Photo via Getty)
The sharks of Tiger Beach, Bahamas. (Photo: Greg Amptman, Shutterstock)
Frenetic activity of Caribbean reef sharks Carcharhinus perezii . Sharks were attracted by chumming the area. (Photo: Stephen Frink, Getty)
(Photo via Getty)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for the Travel Report by AOL newsletter to get exclusive deals and wanderlust inspiration delivered straight to your inbox every day.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.