Are you planning a holiday this year? No matter where you go, if the sea is invitingly warm the chances are you'll be sharing it with sharks, and well over half the attacks occur in water no more than 5ft deep. However, there are things you can do to avoid meeting any. On arriving somewhere new, check with the locals as to whether or not there are sharks around. If there's a choice, go to a beach with anti-shark nets or other protection. In or on the sea, always go with a companion, preferably near others, not far from the shore. Crystal-clear water is safest, and do not go into the sea towards dusk or at night. Only four species of shark are very dangerous: the Great White (star of Jaws and found even in the Med), the Tiger, the Bull and the Oceanic White-Tip. Of 283 attacks reported worldwide in 1990-95, only 40 were fatal, and there are ways of increasing your chances of survival.

If you spot a shark, don't panic. Shout a clear warning to others and head fast for shore. If a shark approaches you, stay silent and immobile - it may go away. But if it circles you repeatedly, this is the equivalent of a dog growling - leave its territory swiftly. If it does attack, fend it off with anything available, aiming at its eyes and gills. Californian diver Rodney Orr has twice survived ferocious attacks, so fight back. Many sharks only bite once, and most wounds, however gruesome, are survivable. So don't cancel that seaside holiday just yet.

Alex MacCormick is the author of "Shark Attacks: Over 150 True Accounts", (Constable, pounds 7.95)