Sharks mislabeled as ‘ruthless killers’


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Zoierae Hill, Reporter

Although sharks are viewed as bloodthirsty killing machines, this is not necessarily true. Sharks limit the populations of sea creatures they consume, which maintains the balance of nature.

While it is true sharks do occasionally attack humans, not all attacks are feeding events. In fact, many are accidental. A shark may mistake the movement of a human for a fish, especially in pounding surf, strong currents and murky water. The shark will grab the human, usually by the legs or feet, and then let go and leave. This is known as a hit-and-run attack.

Other reasons for an attack may include the issue of territory. This type of attack is similar to how a dog barks and bites people who intrude on its territory.

Some shark attacks are called sneak attacks. These attacks occur in deep water where the victim does not see the shark prior to the attack. It can result in serious injury or death, depending on if the shark continues to attack after the initial hit.

Another type of attack is called the bump-and-bite. A shark will circle its victim and bump the victim with its head or body before biting the victim. Again, with a continuous attack, this can result in serious injury or death.

Although recent news seem to indicate a rise in the number of attacks, in reality, shark attacks do not occur all that often. One reason is because these attacks have all happened in a short span of time.

The yearly average of unprovoked shark attacks on humans is 75 worldwide, resulting in about 10 deaths.

These numbers are small compared to the number of humans in the water each year. One is more likely to die from a bee sting, a dog bite, a snake bite or lightning than from a shark bite.

Humans kill a much greater number of sharks than sharks humans. Humans kill about 20 to 30 million sharks each year through commercial and sport fishing.

Sharks have an incredible sense of smell, taste, hearing and sight. They possess the ability to detect incredibly small changes in water pressure and in electromagnetic fields. These are assets that make sharks the apex predators they are and make them just about invincible in the sea. Their main enemy is man.

Unfortunately, sharks are rather vulnerable to bait and hook and are easily caught. In many areas of the world, sharks are overfished and some species of shark are seriously threatened. Great white sharks, sand tiger sharks, whale sharks and basking sharks are under special government protection in some countries.