Why Sharks? (Part 1 of 3)

This is the question I always get asked, and I’m sure that majority of the audience for this blog being shark lovers, you must all get the same? How dare people question your love for the most amazing creature on the planet, right? Well, it is unfortunately still widely believed that they are dangerous, emotionless, eating machines etc. This, for me, is a big reason to show off your obsession.. Their negative perception needs changing. I’m going to try not to ramble too much about the same facts and theories, but here goes..

Although sharks are often portrayed as ‘man-eaters’, shark bites are extremely rare, occurring on average 85 times per year across the globe and an average of 7 of these fatal. Let’s put this in to perspective. There are currently over 7 billion of us, each living on a continent surrounded by ocean. Many of us spend a lot of time in or around the sea’s edge that sharks frequent, and if this is the statistic, why are they seen as especially dangerous? I mean sure, there are risks, as there is with everything, that if you behave in certain ways the shark may feel obliged to have a bite for whatever reason (scared/ curious/ threatened). But from elephants to cows, toasters to vending machines, hotdogs to falling out of bed, most things in life are far more likely to kill you (by the thousands and millions), than sharks are!

Another thing worth discussing is the term ‘shark attack’. PhD candidate Christopher Neff, has explored the term and has deemed it (and, rightly so!), as unsuitable. It is misleading in that it gives the public the idea that sharks are more dangerous that they really are, even being used to describe incidences where there are no physical contact between humans and sharks. It also gives the impression that sharks bite unreasonably; much like a murderer will attack a victim. As mentioned, there is always a reason, just more research needs to be done to clarify these. You can read Christopher’s research paper hereor see a video of him discussing the topic of ‘rogue sharks here.

I’d like to share a couple more videos in attempts to try and re-shape the current perception of sharks, for anyone who may not be aware. Now remember, there is no denying that there IS a risk when diving with sharks, and no one should ever try it without a bit of professional advice & supervision.

Great white sharks, possibly the most feared of them all, are often encountered by humans from the safety of a cage. I get the impression from many people I converse with that they believe this is the only way to get close to them. It seems the use of a cage is for personal comfort, rather than a necessity- that or a way of keeping humans under control! If you know what you are doing however, diving in open water with white sharks can in fact be rather awe-inspiring, and they can be as timid as mice.. This clip from Pelagic Life shows how beautiful such an encounter can be. It even shows some footage of swimming with them (again, without a cage) under the cover of darkness, something unthinkable in the minds of many.

Finally, I’d like to show an example that I believe shows sharks aren’t emotionless beings. Having studied a science degree, I was often steered away from the idea of being ‘anthropomorphic’, and applying human emotions to other animals, but as my Behavioral Ecology teacher often said, what else are we to think when all we know is how we’d feel in the given situations? But here is a video (which you may have seen), of sharks acting in a docile manner, swimming toward the diver possibly out of curiosity, and sticking around for a spot of ‘petting’, which would lead one to believe that they might be enjoying this interaction.

If you have anything to share, something you’d like to elaborate on or add, please feel free to leave a comment and make this blog the best possible source of information! 

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