Your safety should be your number one priority when scuba diving. That means doing plenty of buddy checks, bringing redundant gear, doing a safety stop, and generally erring on the side of caution.
However, one question you might not think to ask is whether or not the color of your wetsuit could affect your safety while scuba diving.
Specifically, does the color of your wetsuit attract predators, namely sharks, and make you susceptible to shark attacks?
Looking at the statistics for shark attacks, you’ll find that shark attacks are rare, especially for scuba divers. Furthermore, it is believed that sharks are colorblind, and what they are noticing is the contrast between colors. That said, just because a shark takes notice of you doesn’t mean it wants to attack you.
Conversely, another question is whether wearing certain colors could act as a deterrent to sharks or other predators, thereby increasing safety? We also need to consider the benefit of wearing bright colors has on your fellow divers.
These are all excellent questions, and in this article, we will discuss in more detail whether you should be paying more attention to the color of your wetsuit or not.
Do bright colors attract sharks?
There is a very popular myth that bright colors attract sharks. It doesn’t help that at some point, a researcher even referred to the color yellow as “yum yum yellow”, implying that it was very attractive to hungry sharks.
If you are feeling paranoid, you could avoid bright colors if you want. However, research has provided little evidence to support the claim that specific colors attract sharks.
It is believed that sharks are actually colorblind, so the colors of your wetsuit makes little difference.
Instead, what you should be worried about is the contrast of your wetsuit against your surroundings. Bright colors will make you stand out more, meaning it will make you stand out more to a shark, but does not necessarily make sharks want to bite you.
Furthermore, the current theory is that you should wear wetsuits with patterns that are similar to poisonous fish to deter sharks from taking a bite. But, even this might not be necessary.
We have already written a few articles on the topic of shark attacks on scuba divers, specifically how astronomically rare shark attacks are. Please read these articles for the exact numbers and other points of comparison.
Instead of worrying about shark attacks, you should be worrying about more pressing dangers like what to do in case of a free flowing regulator or if you get caught in a net, etc.
To close this section off, we would like to remind you that sharks are not interested in humans. They don’t even seem to care about human blood, though you shouldn’t go diving with an open wound for fear of an infection.
Most of the time when a shark does attack a human is when it mistakes it for a seal. Most shark attacks end after the first bite once the shark realizes its mistake, but unfortunately that single bite is typically fatal.
What attracts sharks?
So if the color of your wetsuit is not attracting the shark, what is? It is believed that shiny objects and splashing is what attracts sharks’ attention.
Many dive centers will warn divers to remove all jewelry before entering the water. You should keep your dive computer under the cuff of your wetsuit for similar reasons.
Any shiny objects that reflect light may confuse a shark because it is similar to the reflection of light off a fish scale.
Splashing, thrashing, or any strong movements will also attract sharks because it is reminiscent of a fish thrashing about.
To protect yourself, you should swim slowly (mostly to conserve your oxygen, but this is yet another reason) so that you do not attract sharks in any hotspots.
Next, even though sharks do not see color, it is believed that sharks are attracted to high contrast colors. Yellow, or “yum yum yellow” seems to stand out to sharks because of how much it contrasts with the environment around it, generating more interest.
Lastly, fish blood will absolutely send sharks into a frenzy. You are not supposed to feed sharks, so don’t bring any food with you.
If you are a spearo carrying a bunch of fish around, be on the lookout for sharks circling you. It’s not there for you, but rather the tasty net full of lunch you’re carrying around.
What role does color play underwater?
This is an interesting topic for many reasons.
First, color serves a purpose for humans to help quickly identify one another. If you want to stay with your buddy and vice versa, then there should be some easily identifiable feature on both of your kits, and a specific color or pattern could be that thing.
Second, sharks are not the only predators in the ocean because other marine life can possibly pose a danger to scuba divers. How do they perceive color?
Third, in the ocean, color plays an important role in communication. It is believed that fish can change color depending on their age and if they are ready to mate.
Fourth, color is also used for camouflage, and it is believed that some fish are a certain color because it makes them invisible to their predators yet somehow they are able to detect members of the same species.
There are also some marine creatures that can change color on demand to match their surroundings, or they might have a permanent “fake eye” to fool predators, and so on.
Lastly, color can also be used as a warning. It’s believed that fish that are brightly colored tend to be venomous, and other fish know it too. Hence, there was/is a popular belief that a brightly colored wetsuit might act as a deterrent for sharks, but so far no evidence supports that claim.
Should I wear bright colors while scuba diving?
What colored wetsuit you wear is entirely up to you. Perhaps you are not happy with how boring black wetsuits are and want to wear something that shows off your personality and fashion sense a bit more.
Whatever choice you make, don’t let the fear of shark attacks have too much of an impact on your decision. The reality is that while a bright wetsuit might attract some wildlife, the chances of it leading to an attack is slim to none.
In fact, perhaps you do want to attract as much wildlife as you can on purpose for the most exciting scuba diving experience. Many species of marine life are notoriously shy, and perhaps a bright wetsuit can make them curious enough to leave their hiding place.
Also, let’s stop thinking about how color affects marine life for a moment and think about how it affects your fellow divers. Bright colors make it easier for others to find you in low-viz conditions, and for you to find them. You don’t necessarily need to be as colorful as a clown, but having one easily identifiable object like yellow fins or yellow tanks can make a world of a difference.
With how astronomically rare shark attacks are, the truth is that wearing bright colors is probably better as a safety feature for your fellow divers.
If you’re truly worried about shark attacks, then don’t dive with any reflective objects, dive with a group rather than alone, and don’t bring any fish food with you. What color your wetsuit is will make little to no impact on the likelihood of a shark attack.