Sharks: Are They Really Dangerous?

Sharks: Are They Really Dangerous?

Posted by Dive Professional Audrey Stavish on on Jun 6th 2024

Scuba diving off the coast of California offers a spectacular array of marine life, and among the most thrilling encounters are those with sharks. Despite their reputation, seeing sharks while scuba diving in California is generally not dangerous. Here’s why:

Misunderstood Predators

Sharks have long been misunderstood and vilified by popular media, leading to a widespread but largely unfounded fear. Movies and sensationalist news stories often depict sharks as man-eaters, but the reality is quite different. Most shark species are not interested in humans and prefer to feed on fish and other marine animals.

Non-Aggressive Species

The sharks commonly encountered while scuba diving in California include species such as the leopard shark, horn shark, and the Pacific angel shark. These species are generally non-aggressive and pose little threat to humans. Even the larger and more well-known species like the blue shark and mako shark are not typically dangerous to divers. They are curious creatures but rarely exhibit aggressive behavior towards humans.

Natural Behavior

Sharks are naturally wary of humans. When scuba divers encounter sharks, the animals are usually more interested in observing the divers or simply swimming by. Sharks have highly developed senses and can detect the presence of divers long before they are seen. Their cautious nature means they often avoid close encounters with humans. Divers who understand shark behavior and body language can further minimize any potential risk. Sharks communicate their mood and intentions through their body language. For example, rapid, jerky movements or an arched back can indicate agitation, whereas slow, graceful movements typically signal a relaxed state. Learning to read these signals can help divers maintain a safe and respectful distance.

Shark Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts have increased awareness about the importance of sharks in marine ecosystems. Divers are often educated about the crucial role sharks play in maintaining the health of the oceans. This has led to a more respectful and cautious approach when encountering sharks. Many divers now see these encounters as a privilege and an opportunity to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Low Incidence of Shark Attacks

Statistically, shark attacks are extremely rare. The likelihood of being bitten by a shark is incredibly low, especially when compared to other risks associated with ocean activities. According to the International Shark Attack File, the number of unprovoked shark attacks on divers is minuscule compared to the millions of dives conducted worldwide each year. Key safety tips include staying calm, maintaining eye contact, and avoiding sudden movements. Divers are also advised to stay in groups, as sharks are less likely to approach a large group of people.


Seeing sharks while scuba diving in California can be an exhilarating and awe-inspiring experience. Understanding the behavior of these fascinating creatures, coupled with proper education and safety practices, ensures that such encounters are safe and enjoyable. By shedding light on the myths and focusing on the facts, it becomes clear that the presence of sharks is not something to fear, but rather, something to cherish and respect. Embracing these encounters with knowledge and respect allows divers to fully appreciate the incredible biodiversity of California's marine environments