Recently I came across the infographic below which was shared on Twitter and I thought it put really well visually, how over hyped the danger of sharks really is. I can’t vouch the numbers are absolutely correct but I suspect they are not far off.
I think it is fair to say the film Jaws, which most adults have watched, really caused sharks irrevocable bad press. Suddenly sharks had an agenda -a mean, ruthless, cunning and man eating agenda. It is strange this film had such an effect on the public psyche, I cant think of a single film that has had such a large influence on the reputation of an entire species and ultimately their destiny. Most divers have a deep respect and admiration for sharks, maybe because we have taken some time to learn about these top level predators.
Part of the problem I suspect, is that in the water we are out of our natural environment – on land we can run, jump, climb but in the water we can only swim and in comparison to a shark, swim really badly. In water we can’t see particularly well, as none of our senses are attuned to being in water, we are literally out of our comfort zone. A shark is a top of the food chain predator in the water, just as we are on land. Is the fear the public has for sharks just ignorance? And everything they supposedly know, they learnt from a fictional film? I am not a shark expert but I know very few divers have died from shark attacks. Tell a member of public you are a diver and people will immediately ask if you are worried about sharks? I have dived with many sharks, some considered dangerous to man, but rather than scared, I would say I am always awestruck and am very respectful of their presence. I think they could be likened to seeing a really rare high performance sports car, as they cruise by, but you know they can perform at a whole different level if they so choose.
For me, the most stunning number in the graphic is how many are killed by hippos. I have heard many times that hippos are very dangerous, but if they public were asked to say which is more deadly a shark or a hippo I think we can guess how the voting will end. As a child I thought hippos were big cuddly things, I suspect I was never corrected but few children would have a cuddly shark. It seems unlikely that the next big Hollywood Thriller could be “Hippo” where a large over aggressive hippo hunts downs tourists in jeeps whilst on safari! (Mr Spielberg, please feel free to contact me via my Goggle+ profile if you want to discuss my idea further.. Obviously part of my royalties for “Hippo” will go to shark charities…)
There are many charities trying to protect sharks by educating people around the world. Amongst the invaluable work they are trying to achieve, is stopping the barbaric practice of finning, where sharks are caught, their fins sliced off and the live body of the shark thrown back into the water finless. Here at Simply Scuba we have been supporting BiteBack for many years to help protect sharks and would urge all divers to educate people about sharks and support this or similar charities. Why do you think sharks are so feared? Clearly some species are deservedly so but just the sight of a grey fin is enough to terrify most. What can be done to help correct sharks image?