Don’t Fear the Sharks!
The end of July marks what is possibly the most Americanized celebration there is: Shark Week. We get to experience an entire week of thrilling television, from stories of shark attacks to watching powerful great whites skyrocketing out of the water in stunning aerial displays. While Shark Week makes for some exhilarating entertainment, it also feeds on one key emotion: fear.
This year, don’t fear the sharks.
Why not? After all, for those of us that do not typically spend our time out in saltwater, a slight fear of sharks can actually be fun. If it wasn’t, movies like Jaws or even Sharknado wouldn’t be so enjoyable.
But demonizing sharks exchanges an uncomfortable truth for a fun lie. Sharks aren’t out to kill us. But we sure do kill a lot of them.
According to National Geographic, you have a one in 3.7 million chance of being killed by a shark. Here are just a couple of things that are more likely to kill you than a shark: accidental poisoning, fireworks, ladders, lawnmowers, and train crashes. Setting aside fatal attacks, the United States averages only 19 sharks attacks of any severity every year.
More specifically, an estimated 6.4% to 7.9% of all shark species in the world are killed each year. This figure, converted into hours, amounts to 11,416 sharks killed worldwide every hour.
While sad, these are all statistics. Simple numbers. Why should this change our fear of sharks?
By demonizing sharks, we turn them into monsters. And monsters do not need our help. If something is a monster, it implies that we are the ones who need to be saved from it.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to sharks. They are not monsters. They are fish, doing what fish do. Granted, many are big fish with scary teeth, but fish all the same. And they are fish impacted by our habits every day.
Sharks need us. They need us to support conservation that works to bring their species back. They need us to be conscious consumers, especially when it comes to the food we eat or the trash we produce that impacts our oceans. They need us to think about our tourism habits, like refusing to engage in things like shark feeding that can encourage negative shark and human interactions.
We do not need to give up our fear-driven entertainment. I love rewatching Jaws as much as the next person. But, just like we would with any other topic, we need to separate our shark-themed media consumption from reality.
So enjoy Shark Week – it’s a really fun week of television. But take the next step by donating to shark conservation efforts or educating yourself about the impact humans have on sharks. We do not need to fear sharks, but it is up to us as consumers, activists, and philanthropists to decide whether sharks have a reason to fear humans.