Bright Colours & Predator Provocation

I have just completed decorating a 3mm neoprene wetsuit with detailed ocean art. The suit is fully covered [with art] on the chest area, both arms and both legs. The art is of fish, coral, turtles, dive flags and a 22-inch moray eel winding around the left leg. The colours I used are yellow, green, pink, blue, brown, lavender, white and red. These colours are brilliant and beautiful. My question is: Does this art and the bright colours pose any danger to me as a diver from any predator animal attack?
Marine animal attacks with serious injury to divers are uncommon. Public curiosity has generated much of the excitement created by these infrequent occurrences. Although there are approximately more than 1,000 venomous marine vertebrates, only two species of predatory marine animals that bite - sharks and crocodiles - have been responsible for confirmed fatalities. Probably the most feared marine predators are sharks, and in spite of the vast amount of fiction, few facts are available regarding the relationship of sharks to man. Most sharks are predatory, but nearly all species are too small or insufficiently armed (e.g. teeth and swimming speed) to be dangerous to man. 

However, it is generally safe to assume that in the presence of blood or food, sharks bigger than four feet in length and adequately armed are potentially dangerous. From a worldwide perspective, roughly one-third of the documented shark attacks each year occur on divers. The stimulus to produce an attack by a marine animal ranges from a territorial intrusion to a feeding response. Spearfishing often provokes these attacks. Divers who participate in spearfishing are generally best advised to distance themselves from the likely source of stimulus, i.e. tethered fish or game.

Shark behaviour research has shown that sharks may be attracted to the surface splashing of a swimmer or surfer, mistaking their movements for that of a sea turtle, ray or even an injured fish. With respect to "art" as a visual stimulus, there is a shark attack worthy of mention. The International Shark Attack File (ISAF), based in Gainesville, Fla., has recorded an attack on a diver in the waters of Southeast Asia, where a shark removed significant amounts of tissue from both thighs of a male swimmer. Prior to the attack, the diver had displayed two elaborate animal tattoos near the area of the wounds.

The ISAF has theorised that contributing factors for the assault suggest that the stark contrast of the skin to the colourful design of the tattoos may have attracted the shark's attention. Also, the diver may have intruded upon the territory of that particular shark. The true reason for this attack is unclear.

The barracuda family Sphyraenidae are voracious carnivores, and although there are no known reported fatalities involving the great barracuda, this fish is feared more than sharks in some areas of the world. There are some 20 different species widely distributed throughout tropical and sub-tropical waters. Often barracuda demonstrate no fear of swimmers, and they are known to be attracted to brightly coloured or shiny objects, irregular motions, surface splashing and any speared or tethered fish.

From the standpoint that bright colours, in addition to contrast, may draw attention to you as a diver, diving in certain environments may pose a risk. The cautious opinion of marine animal behaviour specialists is for divers to avoid behaviours and appearances which may arouse the attention of dangerous marine predators.
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7 Comments


Peter Southwood - March 24th, 2016 at 1:43pm

So, reading between the lines, I get: 1. We have no idea really, there is no convincing evidence either way. 2. We advise you not to draw attention to yourself. Does this advice extend to not buying or renting brightly coloured wetsuits, masks, fins and other dive accessories, and not using regulators with shiny metallic components?

Aqua Alex - June 2nd, 2016 at 9:25am

Well so far thousands of dives in bright yellow wet suit with yellow & black fin and 0 predator attacks. Lesley Rochat also dives in Silver & yellow suits, so maybe can ask her about her experience with predators when wearing these suits compared to more darker colours.

Celia - June 2nd, 2016 at 4:01pm

our Raggered tooth sharks hated the human blood, repelled against it in the water, and went mad for the sardine blood!

Phill Krull - June 2nd, 2016 at 5:55pm

I had a silver Lizard suit that I used for spearfishing. On my first dive with it, it turned grey when wet. My amused buddies informed me after the dive that as I was halfway in a cave, a raggie came up and lay next to me!!! I also seemed to shoot more red fish when a wore a red suit. Years ago in the times of black wetsuits, there was a fad of painting white stripes on them. To this a bright spark from the Cape decided that the notice on his wetsuit: "Please note that I am not a sea!" would do the same. One spearo used brown bottom and green top. Maintained it broke his shape up.

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