Since mankind appeared on Earth, they have learned to fear and respect the apex predators roaming in our oceans and some freshwater rivers. What am I talking about? Sharks! In fact, as soon as people hear the word: “Shark!” terror is instantaneously painted on their faces while their mind rapidly remembers the terrifying scenes of the movie: “Jaws”. Is it really fair to give sharks such a bad reputation? Are they deserving of it? Let’s see!
Fact #1: Shark attacks are not a special effect or a figment of the imagination of the writers responsible for movies such as “Jaws” and “Deep Blue Sea”. They do exist. In fact, there is an average of 56 unprovoked shark attacks every year, on a worldwide scale. Of these attacks, about 4 are fatal.
Fiction #1: Sharks are stalking cold blooded killers. While they are cold blooded creatures, they do not stalking anyone, especially humans. In fact, of the 62 annual shark attacks, 56 are unprovoked. Of these shark attacks, 6 are provoked by humans who are actually attacking them. Of the 56 unprovoked shark attacks, most if not all are due to confusion with their favorite meal: seals. There is too much for them to eat in the oceans and rivers to start wasting time, stalking humans. Movies are purely based on entertainment purposes and ticket sales, not on facts.
Fact #2: There are no words to describe the horror of a shark attack but conservation statistics do not lie either. While an average of 4 fatalities per year are due to unprovoked shark attacks out of 56 worldwide, there are 100 million sharks that are victimized by humans as they are affected by either commercial over fishing or illegal fishing by both: sports or commercial fishermen. All results in fatalities: 100 million of them.
Fiction #2: Sharks eat just about anything…or anyone. The truth of the matter is that unless you are talking about the tiger shark, most shark species will prefer to eat fish, mollusks and marine mammals. Humans do not belong on their menu.
Fact #3: Of the 350 shark species that roam in the waters of our planet, only 20% are capable of either performing a shark attack on humans or even coming into contact with them. In fact, 80% of sharks are either too small, are plankton either or live where humans are nowhere to be seen so they do not pose any threat to mankind.
Fiction #3: The Great White shark prefers humans to anything else. False! In fact, they usually retreat following the first bite as humans are too bony for their taste and do not have that rich blubber they love so much and usually find in seals, sea lions and whales.
Fact #4: The most important shark attack ever registered was done during the WWII on the crew of the USS Indianapolis. While about a dozen of the crew members were devoured by sharks in this tragic incident, the victims were usually the dead, the badly injured ones or the isolated ones. Sharks are not known to prey on healthy individuals are they fear the consequences.
Fiction #4: Sharks kill humans on purpose. In fact, most sharks involved in fatalities caused by shark attacks are mainly due to the size of the bite that has been inflicted, not by the amount of bites. If an artery is severed, the cause of death is usually exsanguinations, not the bite itself. Usually, large sharks are responsible of such fatalities. Sharks species involved in this type of fatality are mostly the Great White shark, the Bull shark and the Tiger shark.
Fact #5: Some sharks species are more dangerous to humans that others. That is true as some species are more aggressive or more common in certain areas. When hunting, especially in murky waters, sharks such as the Great White shark, the Bull sharks and the Tiger sharks are not intimidated by size and will attack during hunting hours if confused with their favorite preys. These three species are the top shark species involved in unprovoked shark attacks.
Fiction #5: The larger the shark, the most dangerous it is to humans. While the Great White shark is of impressive size, the Whale shark and the Basking sharks, which are the two largest fish swimming in our planet’s oceans, they are also plankton eaters, which mean that they represent no harm to humans. In fact, several divers have been keeping company to these gentle giants.
As you can see, sharks are not deserving of their bad reputation, which is mainly a result of horror movies based on certain shark species. In reality, the ones that are the “real” victims are not humans. Don’t forget that our oceans and some rivers are also their natural habitat. We are the ones who are the uninvited guests. The least that we can do is show them some respect and give them some space when safety becomes an issue. Don’t make them the “bad guys”! In fact, most shark attack survivors have nothing but respect for them. There must be a reason!