Every day there are new reports of shark sightings in Florida, and all around the boarders of the United States. The media continues to use these sightings as opportunities to attract more ratings and by stoking the hype-fire with their sensationalized articles. Discovery’s Shark Week also adds in an added element of fear.
For years, researchers and conservationists have worked hard in their efforts to learn about shark behavior and find the truth about these animals we tend to fear. Their goal is to break the perceptions of people who have irrational fears created from a movie called ‘JAWS’ and focus on researching findings.
Sharks are in trouble because of media hype that continues as strong as ever today. Sharks are facing shark culls, like the one in Western Australia. It was put together by the Western Australian Political figurehead, Premier Colin Barnett. Seven people had been killed in shark related incidents in a year long period in Western Australia. Because of the fear of lost tourism to their beaches, the Australian government received special permits to kill sharks that are 3 meters or larger that enter into a designated area in an effort to protect people and protect their tourism dollars.
Unfortunately, culls prove to do little more than killing innocent animals. There were baited drum lines that were placed around the perimeter of the beach area that actually lured a number of species into the kill zone. The sharks they were ultimately after were Great Whites and not one of those was actually caught.
The continued shark hype is bringing a lot of consequences to sharks that aren’t deserved or right. It’s causing further negative effects to our oceans which threatens our very lives. Sharks are apex predators, which means they are on top of the food chain. Sharks keep the species of fish below them in balance by eating the dead, the dying, and the slow fish. This keeps those fish populations healthy, strong, and balanced. In short, sharks keep the balance in our oceans. Without sharks, our oceans will die. Our world will become a lot like lifeless Mars, as Dr. Sylvia Earle says. “No water, no life. No blue, no green”(Earle).
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of all the excitement and false media hype about sharks in our oceans. It is getting old! When are we going to listen to the truth about sharks from researchers and conservationists, calm down, and stop with the hype?
Here are things we should all keep in mind when we go to the beach:
Remember that the water you swim in is the ocean. The ocean covers 70% of the Earth’s surface. It holds the planets largest habitat, with 50% of all species on earth (NOAA). It is home to all kinds of life, includes hundreds of species of sharks who have been living in the ocean for millions of years. Our home is on land, their home is in the ocean. We are merely guests. So we should not be greedy and claim the ocean as ours, because it isn’t, it is their home that we enter.
If you do spot a shark or two, do not go into a panic and spark unnecessary negative excitement. You want to stay calm, keep your eyes on the shark(s) and make your way out of the water. Understand that sharks do not come in close to shore to hunt for us. They feed on their own prey and they come in to rest. The way sharks rest, since they cannot stop moving, is to come in close to shore and swim slowly, without exerting energy, wearing themselves out. If you are being circled around, it is because the sharks are curious as to what you are, it doesn’t mean you will be attacked. If you don’t feel comfortable, just get out of their home and back on land.
If you are kayaking or paddle boarding and your floating device gets bumped by a shark, don’t freak out and call it an attack. Trust me, you would know if you were being attacked. Sharks are very curious animals. They are passing by and checking out your kayak/paddleboard/surfboard to see what it is, what you are. It doesn’t help to exaggerate when reporting this bumps and meets with sharks to be attacks. It’s not true. Your adding to the hype. We need to use proper terms and language and call it for what it is. We continue to make sharks out to be something their not.
If it’s a Great White that comes around, understand that your board or your kayak is shaped a lot like a seal. Additionally, your arms and legs, or paddles are sticking out, so for all the know, it’s natural prey. It doesn’t mean the shark(s) will go on full attack, we have never seen that. They are just checking it out and confirming that you are or aren’t food. Realize, even if you get in an accident or your device gets bitten in the process; it is not their fault. You took the chance knowing full well that the ocean is alive, an underwater world that is home to so many creatures of all different kinds, and we who enter it for our recreational fun are merely guests, got in the ocean in the first place. It was a chance you were willing to take.