At the beach for July 4 weekend? 7 shark safety tips that could save your life

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As family and friends flood America’s coastlines during the holiday weekend, an expert is giving beachgoers practical tips to keep in mind as they head into waters with one of the most feared hunters in the ocean.

Dr. Robert Hueter, OCEARCH’s senior adviser for science and academics, told Fox News Digital that swimmers should be aware that they are swimming alongside sea life and are not in an enclosed pool or lake.

“The first thing to keep in mind is, don’t be afraid of the ocean,” he said. “The ocean is an absolutely wonderful, life-giving place. It’s important to everything we do on this planet. Go have fun at the ocean this weekend.”

“But remember, the ocean is not a swimming pool. It’s not even a lake,” Hueter said. “It’s a big, wild place full of life.”

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Hueter shared practical tips for beachgoers as they head to the shore this holiday weekend.

“It’s a pretty easy list of steps to avoid raising your risk of being bitten by a shark,” Hueter said.

1. Assess water conditions

The shark expert suggested looking into if there are any precautions posted for surf and current conditions prior to jumping in. 

“You can go on the OCEARCH website and see our safety tips,” Huerter said. 

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“First of all, remember that the risk of drowning is 132 times higher than even getting bitten by a shark, much less dying by a shark bite,” he said. “So, pay close attention to things like rip currents and ocean conditions, and always, always follow the guidelines that the lifeguards are putting out there at the beach.”

2. Do not swim in the food chain

Hueter said that prior to wading out into the ocean, survey the water and notice any heightened animal activity, like schools of fish or flocks of birds.

“When you go in the water, make sure that you sort of look over the situation,” he said. “And if you see a lot of life, a lot of fish, schools of birds diving, that sort of thing, remember that there may be larger fish that are trying to feed on those smaller fish.”

“You don’t want to put yourself in the middle of that. You just want to stay away from that,” Hueter said. “And you don’t want to be part of the food chain, so to speak.”

“Assuming that that’s not happening and also that people are not fishing right in that area, because fishing by its very nature attracts fish and larger animals, including sharks, go into the water and enjoy your time,” Huerter said.

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3. Do not swim out too far

“Don’t go out too far in the summer because there are more sharks out there in the summer,” he said. “The Fourth of July is a time when we’re bringing a lot of people into the water, and there are a fair number of sharks here at the same time.”

“So, stay inside the first sandbar, if that’s the way that the beach is constructed,” Hueter said.

4. There is safety in numbers

Hueter reminded swimmers that there is safety in numbers and to never swim alone in the ocean.

“Stay with other people,” he said. “Don’t make yourself a lone target because a shark might investigate.”

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He said sharks are “not really looking for us.”

If they were, they must be awfully bad at it, because they only bite less than 100 people in the world every year,” he said. “And that’s millions of people and millions of sharks.”

“So, you just don’t want to get in their way,” he said.

5. Avoid shiny jewelry and bright-colored bathing suits

Huerter said to avoid wearing flashy jewelry that could pique the shark’s interest.

“You don’t want to attract their attention, so don’t wear shiny jewelry when you go swimming,” he said.

He said sparkly jewelry could look like the scales of a fish that sharks could want to investigate further. 

Huerter said that things like wearing a brightly colored bathing suit could attract unwanted attention from the shark.

“We talk about not wearing too bright a bathing suit, but most people wear brightly colored shirts, so just keep that in mind.”

“The ocean’s a wild place,” he said. “Put yourself into the head of a shark and think, ‘What am I looking for?’”

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Huerter reiterated that sharks are not looking for people, but they may go to investigate a shiny piece of jewelry or a fluorescent bathing suit.

“You just don’t want to do those things that would attract their attention and maybe cause them to come up and bite,” he said.

6. Swim in the ocean during the day

“Stay in the ocean during the daytime or when there are other people there,” Hueter said. “Don’t go swimming from dusk to dawn.”

Hueter advised against swimming at dusk because sharks are “pretty active” during that time.

“Sharks are pretty active in those two periods because they kind of have an advantage over their prey,” he said. “But you’re also taking away some of their ability to determine that you’re not what they want.”

7. Have fun

Hueter reminded beachgoers to have fun over the Fourth of July holiday weekend and to implement safety advice.

“Just keep in mind that we see a spike in interactions between people and sharks through the Fourth of July,” he said. “And that’s not because the sharks are particularly attracted to the beaches because it’s Independence Day, it’s because we’re putting more people in the water at that time of year than any other time.”

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“So, sharks and people come together, and bites occur,” Hueter said. “So, just try to be safe and practice the tips that we give out and have a great Fourth of July.”