A great white shark is pictured in Passamaquoddy Bay in this 2014 file photo. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Hawkins

While shark attacks off the Maine coast are rare, a recent sighting of a great white shark in Cape Elizabeth may have you wondering how to avoid a confrontation with these sea creatures.

The risk of a shark attacking while you are out swimming or boating is very low, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, but there are ways to reduce the likelihood of attracting a shark’s attention.

When swimming, surfing or paddling, it is important to always be aware of your surroundings, officials warn. You should also stay close to shore, avoiding murky water or areas where it is difficult to see where you are swimming, and stay with a group of people when out on the water. It is not recommended to swim in the dark, or at times of the day when lighting is low, such as at dawn or dusk, according to the DMR.

If you notice seals or schooling fish in the water, it is best to avoid that area. Diving seabirds are also a good indication that there could be prey below the surface. Prey animals will attract sharks and other predators, so avoiding them is the best way to avoid an errant run-in with a shark. It is also courteous and conscientious to give Maine’s wildlife a wide berth wherever you see it to avoid disrupting or agitating them.

Shiny jewelry, whether worn while you are in the water or on the water, can attract the attention of sharks and other marine animals, so it is best to take it off before going out. You should not go water if you have open or actively bleeding wounds, and those who menstruate should stay alert to their surroundings and exercise caution.

Excessive splashing can also attract a shark’s attention, so keep splashing at a minimum and limit the time that your pets are in the water, as they can act unpredictably.

The best way for beachgoers to stay safe is to follow lifeguard instructions and respect beach signage.

If you are attacked by a shark, you should be proactive. Smashing its snout may stun it, and you should attempt to leave the water as quickly as possible. If the shark actually bites you, clawing at its eyes or gills can help curtail the attack. You should seek medical assistance immediately in the event of a shark attack.

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.