Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans

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Sharks and vending machines – surprising statistics

Whenever a shark bites, it is all over the newspapers and the incidents within five minutes: shark deaths are very newsworthy. The number however is low: in 2012 there were 80 incidents, only 7 of those fatal. Globally. With the exploded number of people in the water, this is an astonishing low number.

The classic fin on the surface – an image used in many Hollywood films / © Peter Verhoog, Dutch Shark Society

Texting while driving kills 6,000 annually in the U.S. alone. Hippos kill 2,900 people annually in Africa. About 14,000 people die on South African roads each year. In Australia, there were 1,300 road deaths in 2012. In the US only, vending machines kill 2 to 3 people per year. Incredible figures and facts. But after almost every shark death, there is demand for ‘safe beaches’, a shark hunt, preemptive shark culling, drumlines and nets. Ineffective measures, but very populair with politicians. In 2009, the overheid van Australian New South Wales conducted a study and released a “Shark Meshing Program Report” that reviewed the effectiveness of shark nets on reducing shark attacks. It stated that “the annual rate of attack was the same both before and after meshing commenced.” In Hawaii, hunting tiger sharks did only affect the shark populations: the number of ‘attacks’ did not change. Researchers state the use the term ‘shark attack’ leads to misperceptions and inaccurate risk reporting.

Fair warning

Statistics are just figures, they do not express the immense grieve of people who have lost a loved one. But why do we react so differently to causes of death? Is it, because sharks are not very cuddlesome to most people? Or because they are food? Or because they seem to be more ‘controllable’ than most other causes of death? The lack of sympathy for shark species severely could severly effect shark conservation, and not only in oceans with many sharks, but also in seas where only smaller sharks are present: why protect ‘man-eating creatures’?

It would be immensely beneficial to us and our oceans, if we appreciated sharks for what they are: the keepers of our ocean, that preserve habitats like no other fish can. When they are gone, we will lose commercially important fish and shellfish species down the food chain. And our blue planet.

Instead of debating how to kill sharks, it would be better to focus how we can protect sharks and avoid shark incidents. You can find more tips to avoid shark bites at: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/attacks/relariskreduce.htm

More information:

http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/statistics/statsw.htm
http://theconversation.com/the-great-shark-debate-to-cull-or-not-to-cull-9550
http://www.outsideonline.com/blog/outdoor-adventure/science/what-weve-learned-about-tiger-sharks-in-hawaii.html
http://christopherneff.com/new-study-calls-for-society-to-change-the-way-we-refer-to-shark-behavior/
http://www.securingthehuman.org/blog/2010/09/13/risk

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