When you think about the ocean…what words spring to mind? Water? Fish? Dolphins? What about words such as fear? Scary? Deep? Intimidating? Everyone has their own opinion on the ocean and what words they associate with the ocean. One word we all have in common though…and that is sharks. Everyone can name at least one species of shark, whether that is the famous Great White Shark or Whale Shark, we all know one.
Now when it comes to sharks what word springs to mind? Killer? Scary? Fear? Have you ever wondered where that fear came from? Why are we so scared of sharks? Should we be scared of them? Now I am no expert on sharks, but I have extensively studied them recently and have been fascinated by them since I was 10 years old. The one question that everyone asks me is ‘are sharks really the ruthless killer we think they are?’. Isn’t that the question everyone wants to know?
I know for myself that it was the question that I wanted answered 16 years ago. At that point all I really knew about sharks was what my parents knew (the internet had only just become widely available but it was still dialup so it was either the phone or the computer…the phone won). My parents realised that I had a hunger for knowledge on sharks and ended up buying me a book on them and I remember so clearly that the pages on shark attacks and survivors is what really held my attention. Specifically it was the story of Rodney Fox and how he survived. Now what really surprised me was that after his attack, he became a shark advocate…he admitted that he was not the victim in this attack, the shark was!
This set me off on what I thought was a great detective story. Turned out that the majority of shark victims didn’t blame the shark at all and actually became advocates themselves! Now if people who were attacked by them aren’t afraid of them…why should we be?
So the big question is, where did this fear come from? Many would say, and I would agree, that the media have made sharks these ruthless killers that we are all afraid of. Whether this all started with the film ‘Jaws’ or not is another question. But the author of ‘Jaws’ Peter Benchley also became a shark advocate and regretted writing his book so much that he wrote another book talking about how important the oceans are and what lives in them.
Yes sharks look scary, they are apex predators so they are ‘designed’ to perfection for their environment. But just because they look scary it doesn’t mean that they are ‘cold-blooded killers’. In fact the chance of a shark killing you is so small, you are more likely to die from a cow or a coconut falling on your head! Those that do get attacked are mainly surfers, and that is because surfers tend to go out at dawn and dusk, prime shark feeding time. Plus the major reason surfers get attacked, is because they look like seals in the water, seals being the number one food source for many sharks.
So does this mean we should be scared of them? To an extent yes, they are the apex predators of the oceans and it is their environment. When we step foot into the ocean, we are going into their environment. But, that fear shouldn’t stop us from exploring or understanding the oceans and especially studying and understanding sharks more! The media has made us scared of sharks with behaviours that aren’t natural to them, we love being scared of monsters, they intrigue us. But instead of being scared of seeing them in the wild, lets be amazed! It is not often that you can come face to face with these beautiful creatures!
Sharks are truly incredible creatures and I will spend my life protecting them and making people aware of just how amazing they are and that we shouldn’t be scared of them.
What about you? What about sharks scare you? What about the oceans scare you? Let me know in the comments below!
~ Fear is only as deep as the mind allows – Japanese Proverb ~