Last week was the holiday also known as Shark Week. It’s an annual week of shows on Discovery channel devoted to the greatness of sharks. According to their Twitter account, they’ve been jawesome since 1988. This is an obvious nod to the movie Jaws and I find it amazing that over thirty years since it came out, the fear is still alive. And not fear in general. If I’m ever in open shark infested water, I’ll need a change of underwear if I get rescued. I’m talking about the fear of sharks specifically wanting to eat people. It’s simply not true.
Remember when Siegfried and Roy’s tiger attacked them? Shortly after it happened, Chris Rock had a hilarious take on it. He said something like, “People were saying the tiger went crazy. The tiger didn’t go crazy, the tiger went TIGER!”
I think we forget sometimes despite all our advancements that we share a world with wild animals. They live in a kill or be killed world and have to rely on their instincts to survive. In other words, it’s not personal. I get the confusion because there are many documented waves of attacks that sure make it seem like we’re their favorite snack food. But we see this sort of thing all the time when a person is wrongly accused of a crime. The available evidence points in one direction, but when all the facts come out, they paint a much different picture.
During this year’s Shark Week, there was a show called Rogue Shark that wanted to answer the question, “Does the man-eating shark exist?”
While shark attacks were not uncommon off Australia’s coast, these particular attacks caused alarm because the shark would come back after the initial bite. It also didn’t help that the attacks happened right around the same time Jaws hit the theaters.
Most human shark attacks aren’t attacks in the sense that the shark wants to eat us. They’re tasting us to see if we’re something in its diet like fish or seals. Once it figures out it made a mistake, it’s gone as quickly as it came. But with a bite strength that can be as powerful as two tons, it sure looks like the shark wants us dead.
So, back to Australia. They call in an expert to figure out what’s going on with the attacks. There were pictures of the offending shark and the first thing the expert noticed was a small piece of the shark’s tail was missing. This became a crucial piece of the puzzle when a video surfaced of divers filming sharks near the attack sites. In order to lure the sharks, they were hand feeding them fish and one of the sharks in this video had a piece of his tail missing.
The diver unwittingly trained this shark to associate people with food.
This would explain why most of the victims were bitten on the hands. But they were also being bitten in their butts. Did the shark have a bizarre sense of humor? Nope, sharks are all business and when the diver reached behind his back to grab more fish from his pack, (hanging near his rear) the shark noticed.
It’s important to note that this shark was young. They don’t get born with a handbook on what to eat and no one’s around to train them. Everything they learn is on the job and in this shark’s case, the easy meal came from the people shaped things. Not his fault and not ours, just a slight mix-up.
We have to remember that the ocean isn’t a body of water, it’s an ecosystem filled with life. Some more dangerous than others, but what’s even more dangerous is not understanding it. We need everything in there if we want to keep this world turning, including sharks. It’s okay to fear them and we should respect them. Let’s just stop thinking they’re out to get us.
What’s your opinion on sharks? Hate them or heart them?