This is from my Gen X Girl column that appears weekly in the Townsville Bulletin’s Savvy magazine.
Sharks are misjudged. And it’s all the fault of the media and its loose use of terms such as shark attack. And Hollywood is to blame as well. What with Jaws movies and the like it’s little wonder that sharks cop a bad rap.
Well that’s what researcher Christopher Neff says, and now he wants us all to be a little more politically correct and respectful to sharks by abandoning the term shark attack in favour of shark bite incident and putting that whole Jaws imagery right out of our over-active imaginations.
Oh I can see it now. Headlines scream, Surfer eaten alive in shark bite incident. Actually I can’t see it at all because it is really, really stupid. Water it down all you like—a shark attack is what it is.
Mr Neff, and I don’t think anyone will be surprised when I tell you that he is an American, said that swimmers were not on the (shark) menu and “there is no evidence any shark species develops a taste for human flesh.”
OK, Mr Neff, give us some credit. I’m fairly confident that most of us realise that sharks are not out there swimming around looking for human fillet mignon a la Jaws. However we humans, swimming around in the sea are a potential food source and I think that is what scares the living lights out of us—the fact that whether we are a seal or a human makes no difference to the shark.
However Neff say that I am wrong about this and that sharks don’t eat humans because we provide low nutrition—yes we are the junk food of the sea food chain. So if we are so unhealthy and apparently unpalatable, why do sharks come back for a second bite? For example if I slipped my husband a piece of liver there’s no way he come back for a second go—he’d spit it right out and wash his mouth out with alcohol. Yet people report that the shark comes back for an encore during an attack/incident.
Neff goes on to say that we should avoid beaches at prime shark time. Yes we all so love to swim when the sharks are around—good sport that. My favourite beach at a township called Amity (and yes I’m aware that was the town in the Jaws movie) experienced a fatal shark attack a few years ago. I was swimming in that very spot the week before the attack. Do you think a chicken-heart like me would knowingly swim where there were sharks? No signs, no warnings. There are now though.
Since then I’ve spent all my time swimming at patrolled beaches. When recently holidaying at the Solomon Islands I spent hours quizzing the resort staff about shark attack potential. “Lagoon, lagoon,” they laughed as if I was supposed to be reassured. Haven’t they seen the movie The Beach. That bad old shark breached the lagoon and ate the hero’s best friend.
I swam but all the time worried that I could be a potential shark bite incident victim. See, it just sounds stupid. Image