Sharks: vicious or misunderstood?

Wednesday, August 25

By Ana Lucía León

Did you know its way more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a shark? I know, this stats scared me as well, but they got my thinking. Why is it that humans are more afraid of the slighter chance of being eaten by a shark than that of being fried by a lightning bolt? Why do people refuse to swim in the sea, but don't have a problem with dancing in the rain for that main character "aesthetic"?

The answer lies within the cultural fear that's been surrounding sharks for as long as I can remember. I believe it all started in the mid 70s with the release of Jaws. For what I can gather many people are utterly terrified of the ocean thanks to this movie's really bad portrayal of what shark attacks look like. The sad thing is, the movie isn't really that realistic or good to be honest. You can only see the shark about twice and if you look really closely it's pretty easy to spot some wire or plastic fin constituting the "vicious" animal. According to the Yearly Worldwide Shark Attack Summary in 2020 there were only 129 cases worldwide and about 10% of those were fatal. Now, I'm not saying this numbers are insignificant, because they aren't, and they shouldn't happen, but if you compare them with the 28 fatal accidents that happen daily only in the US for drunk driving, that sort of puts things into perspective. Doesn't it? 

On the other hand, sharks are also getting a bad rep because of the media's scandalous coverage over every single shark attack that takes place. I mean, of course they're important events, but there's an unevenness there that can't be ignored. For instance, I would bet that the coverage for drunk driving accidents, or just regular car accidents is only a small fraction of that for shark attacks. Also, it has been proven that most unprovoked shark attacks occur to surfers and people performing boarding sports. Try putting yourself in a shark's mentality. If you were hungry and saw something on the surface that resembles one of your common meals (like a seal) would you eat it? Being a predator, the shark probably would. So it's not like sharks are out to hunt human beings, they sometimes confuse us with seals or other prey that's consumed by them on a daily basis. So, stop trying to think that sharks are out to get you, because they probably just confused you with something else. 

Now, there have been cases where it's inconcievable to think that a shark actually confused a person for something else-such is the case for scuba diving and free diving. Why is it that sharks attack people? Let me get something straight: sharks are predators. If they're hungry they'll hunt, and by getting into the ocean people are entering their hunting territory. So there's indeed a risk when entering the ocean, but its way less than you might think it is, and I'm done seeing the media trying to demonize sharks with an argument based on a premise that was born in 1975.

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