Sharks are a valuable part of the ecosystem and their existence is crucial to keeping it in balance. Statistically the number of shark attacks are low- more people are killed by car-related deaths annually.
If we are going to save our seas and ourselves, then we need to change our relationship with sharks. I know many of us cant even begin to think about a ‘relationship’ with these savage predators, but herein lies the rub: it’s our thinking that’s the problem. Blame Hollywood, blame your relatives, blame hearsay but most of what we, the average person, know about sharks is possibly wrong. How many of us can name more than 3 species of shark? How many of us truly understand shark behaviour? How many of us can say we know for sure why sharks may attack humans in the ocean? Not many of us, that’s for certain.
These creatures are certainly beguiling; they have pretty complex social systems; some migrate hundreds of thousands of miles and some species have yet to be seen giving birth. Most of what we know is based on rumour and it’s time we separate the fact from fiction. Let’s look at the facts on shark attacks globally. In 2019 there were 64 confirmed unprovoked attacks, which statistically was lower than the average for the last 5 years. Furthermore, of those 64 attacks, only 5 were fatal, and 3 out of the 5 attacks were provoked. That means us humans made ourselves vulnerable to attack0 that could be chumming the water to attract sharks, spearfishing or even intentionally touching or prodding them in the wild.
If we compare the annual fatalities to motor vehicle-related deaths the difference is staggering: 1.35 million people are killed, on average annually. But that wouldn’t stop most of us getting into a car and you’ll likely never hear people spreading rumours about what causes a fatality in this regard. Here we tend to stick to the facts; wearing a seatbelt can help save your life, a vehicle with airbags is good and we must look left and right before we cross a street. So why can we apply the same logic to sharks? There’s a whole heap of fact out there about these creatures so let’s rather lean on that.