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  #1  
Old 12 March 2007, 06:51 AM
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Fright Myth-breaking time: Sharks bite but don't target humans

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Volusia's coast is the shark-bite capital of the world, but Marine Science Center Education Coordinator Debra Marsicano says the toothy predators aren't generally man-eaters.

"My goal is to dispel some of the myths regarding sharks," she said. "Sharks are perfectly designed predators . . . But people are not on the menu."
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/...,7718625.story
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  #2  
Old 12 March 2007, 11:15 AM
Jay Tea Jay Tea is offline
 
 
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I've been reading about this for 15 years, including a much younger David Attenborough in South Africa making a compelling programme about great whites and their hunting patterns, and interesting stuff about the similarities in silhouettes of elephant seals and surfers, and how sharks 'test-bite' targets they are uncertain about - just so happens a 'test bite' on a human doesn't leave much behind...

It's a shame sharks got bundled up in the common mythology as creatures of nightmares, and now, hunted for sport and drowned in beach nets, news of their actual habits is so forgettable that it is regurgitated over and over as something new.
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Old 12 March 2007, 12:13 PM
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just so happens a 'test bite' on a human doesn't leave much behind...
Good point Jay Tea. I witnessed a woman being attacked by a shark in shallow water off the coast of Aden when I was eleven. She was with her five year old son in an area supposedly protected by shark netting. I cannot bring myself to write about it in detail as it makes my hair stand on end to this day. Suffice to say that I saw her thrashing about and screaming and the 'test bite' turned the sea red. Sensibly my mother whisked me away from the shoreline before I saw any more horror and we heard later that the woman had not survived.

Quote:
It's a shame sharks got bundled up in the common mythology as creatures of nightmares, and now, hunted for sport and drowned in beach nets, news of their actual habits is so forgettable that it is regurgitated over and over as something new.
The incident I saw has left me somewhat phobic about sharks...even the soundtrack of Jaws is enough to have me leave a room sharpish...and I rarely swim in the sea. That said I do appreciate that sharks are fascinating creatures. The sea is their domain and it saddens me to think of them being slaughtered out of ignorance and fear.
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Old 12 March 2007, 12:21 PM
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My logic has always been that if sharks liked the taste of humans we wouldn't swim in the ocean...

Humans are easy to catch, easy to kill, and swim en mass around the globe in the sea.. We would be easy marks, much simpler then seals or fish, for any shark, much less a big one.

But we are rarely even attacked, and most of those attacks are just a quick bite (granted, as was pointed out, a quick bite from a fifteen foot fish can be enough to finish us off, or leave us crippled for life).


That said, they terrify me, alot, like to the bone. I dont know why, I mean I get that people, in general, find sharks scary, but most still swim/surf/dive/whatever. Me? I dunno, I'm hoping I can conquer this fear when I get out to California, I have seen a handful of sharks in the wild but never seen an attack, so cannot blame it on that, just for some reason fear them.

Oh well, I enjoy the beach alot without having to surf/swim, I'll get by one way or anohter But it would be nice to get over the fear, unfortunatly thats alot easier said then done.

-MB
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Old 12 March 2007, 12:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Tea View Post
I've been reading about this for 15 years, including a much younger David Attenborough in South Africa making a compelling programme about great whites and their hunting patterns, and interesting stuff about the similarities in silhouettes of elephant seals and surfers, and how sharks 'test-bite' targets they are uncertain about - just so happens a 'test bite' on a human doesn't leave much behind...
I've been hearing/reading the same thing for years, too.

I don't think sharks (or any other creature, for that matter) should be demonized, and I don't think sharks should be slaughtered wholesale. However, given the fact that a test bite will probably, at best, leave a human gravely injured and maimed, I don't think being afraid of them is entirely unreasonable. It certainly makes more sense than my phobia about snakes. I certainly don't think Phaedra's fear is unreasonable, given the trauma that lies behind it.
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  #6  
Old 12 March 2007, 12:59 PM
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Indeed, sharks 'do' pose a threat, but that's what comes with putting ourselves into their environment - always makes me think of Billy Connolly:

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We don't belong in there! There are bitey things just waiting for us to fall in!
As an example, if a hiker roams into Lion territory and is mauled/eaten, normal practice is to point to the folly of the deceased, not lay Lion Traps all around the safari lodge. I think if sharks had doe-eyes and kept their mouths shut as they swim we wouldn't be talking about this. The lion gets to be the mighty king of the plains, whereas the shark is the demonic scourge of the seas
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  #7  
Old 12 March 2007, 12:59 PM
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However, given the fact that a test bite will probably, at best, leave a human gravely injured and maimed, I don't think being afraid of them is entirely unreasonable.
Thats not the fault of the shark though. I think there is a difference between taking smart preventative measures against sharks (ie no where they feed, avoiding feeding frenzy's, etc) and outright fearing them. Its the fact that people fear them that causes them to be hunted. That and movies like Jaws that perpetuate the idea that sharks are man hunters. Shark experts (and even Peter Benchley before he died) claim that that image is false.

Sharks like any other animal can hurt us.
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  #8  
Old 12 March 2007, 01:15 PM
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Quote:
Indeed, sharks 'do' pose a threat, but that's what comes with putting ourselves into their environment
In addition, that threat seems to be insanely small compared to things we do without even considering every day.. Such as driving.

I dont have stats in front of me but I'd be willing to put money on the fact that I am many many many more times likely to die in a car accident any given day then I am to even be bitten by a shark, much less have any serious injury from it..

In fact, and this could be a UL, I've heard more people die from falling cocoanuts each year then from shark attacks..


Its really that sharks are just scary, their attacks are relativly rare so they make the news, and when push comes to shove they are large dangerous creatures that "roam" a section of the planet that is largely unfamilier to the average person.

In alot of ways they are like the "wolves" of the 20th (and 21st) century.

-MB
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  #9  
Old 12 March 2007, 01:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diddy View Post
Thats not the fault of the shark though.
I didn't suggest it was. In fact, I specifically suggested otherwise.
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  #10  
Old 12 March 2007, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by diddy View Post
Its the fact that people fear them that causes them to be hunted.
Very little shark "hunting" is done out of fear or hatred. There is a very large global shark fishery that supplies food to Asia. The primary target and methodology seems wasteful and barbaric. The main product is the fins only. Sharks are caught by baited hooks or netted. They are pulled onto the ship's deck (usually still alive) and all of the fins are systematically sliced off with a large knife. The still-living shark is then tossed overboard where it sinks helplessly to the bottom.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue
In fact, and this could be a UL, I've heard more people die from falling cocoanuts each year then from shark attacks..
I think we talked about this a few years ago. There are no meaningful statistics or databases for deaths by coconut.
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  #11  
Old 12 March 2007, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
In addition, that threat seems to be insanely small compared to things we do without even considering every day.. Such as driving.

I dont have stats in front of me but I'd be willing to put money on the fact that I am many many many more times likely to die in a car accident any given day then I am to even be bitten by a shark, much less have any serious injury from it..

In fact, and this could be a UL, I've heard more people die from falling cocoanuts each year then from shark attacks..

-MB
All very true, Mickey. When I visited Cape Town I went to the aquarium which had a big shark section with lots of interesting facts about sharks. The one with I like the best compared deaths cause by sharks to deaths caused by very non threatening objects e.g. Last years 652 people were killed by chairs. 4 people by sharks.

I think another reason people are so scared of sharks is that when someone is attacked the media jumps on it and it's in every newspaper for week afterwards, if that happend with every traffic accident you'd need a forklift to pick up the paper.
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  #12  
Old 12 March 2007, 05:06 PM
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The idea that sharks really want to eat people has always seemed strange to me. Look at how many reports you hear of surfers (or whoever) getting bitten, and then "fighting off the shark and swimming to shore." That just doesn't sound very likely to me, not if the shark in question really wants to eat you. There is no way to outswim them, and I am pretty sure that if they were determined, they could stand up to a few punches. Plus, I imagine that land food tastes pretty funny to them (would it taste landy, rather than fishy?).

That being said, thanks to Jaws (and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) I don't swim in the ocean. Am not really that comfortable swimming in fresh water, either, but whoever said fears had to be logical?
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  #13  
Old 12 March 2007, 08:49 PM
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I think that the exaggerated fear that many have of sharks is because of the way that they kill you. Death usually comes after massive shock (due to blood loss or intense pain) or drowning. Occasionally a bite is placed where loss of consciousness would be nearly immediate. But in most cases, the victim would be aware that they are being killed by a shark for a limited amount of time before they black-out. Envisioning that kind of death is something to cause great fear or paranoia in many people. Logic or weighing probabilities has nothing to do with it. You can even get these people to admit that their fear is irrational when compared to the true risks - but they will then go on to tell you that there is nothing that can stop their fear. They will chuckle as they agree that "falling coconuts kill more people than sharks". But then they will park themselves under a palm tree with suntan lotion and never set foot in the ocean.

Having said that, again I must mention that the greatest human threat to sharks worldwide does not come from fear or hatred. It comes from Asian appetites.
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  #14  
Old 12 March 2007, 09:06 PM
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Spam & Cookies-mmm Spam & Cookies-mmm is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geminilee View Post
That being said, thanks to Jaws (and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) I don't swim in the ocean. Am not really that comfortable swimming in fresh water, either, but whoever said fears had to be logical?
I'm more afeart of gators and water moccassins than of sharks so I avoid fresh water, unless it's crystal clear. The undertow is more of a concern to me in the ocean, even, than sharks are.
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  #15  
Old 12 March 2007, 09:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
I didn't suggest it was. In fact, I specifically suggested otherwise.

Sorry I must have misunderstood this statement:
Quote:
I don't think being afraid of them is entirely unreasonable.
Being afraid of something that isn't out to get you is somewhat unreasonable. If you meant something else, I must have mis-understood.
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  #16  
Old 12 March 2007, 09:09 PM
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Quote:
Very little shark "hunting" is done out of fear or hatred. There is a very large global shark fishery that supplies food to Asia.
Really? I thought it was for "sport". I was not aware of that.
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  #17  
Old 12 March 2007, 09:09 PM
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This is why I am striving to attain the same general body outline as an orca.
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  #18  
Old 12 March 2007, 09:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diddy View Post
Really? I thought it was for "sport". I was not aware of that.
Triple Threat: World Fin Trade May Harvest up to 73 Million Sharks per Year
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  #19  
Old 12 March 2007, 09:21 PM
Ryda Wong, EBfCo. Ryda Wong, EBfCo. is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spam & Cookies-mmm View Post
I'm more afeart of gators and water moccassins than of sharks so I avoid fresh water, unless it's crystal clear. The undertow is more of a concern to me in the ocean, even, than sharks are.
Which is very, very reasonable. I'm the same way. When I used to spend time in Panama City, we'd go to the jetties. I remember a nurse shark that hung out there. My mom introduced us when I was about five (I was a really strong swimmer), and explained about sharks, types of sharks, and the risks.
I learned to respect them, but not fear them.

However, I'm far more frightened of humans than I am of any other animal. Talk about dangerous and mean
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  #20  
Old 13 March 2007, 03:51 PM
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Quote:
Quote:
I don't think being afraid of them is entirely unreasonable.
Being afraid of something that isn't out to get you is somewhat unreasonable. If you meant something else, I must have mis-understood.
Something doesn't have to be "out to get you" to be dangerous. Fire isn't out to get you, but I think it's reasonable to be afraid of out of control fires.
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