Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sharks - What Are The Real Facts?

Author: Carey Baird

The thought of sharks conjures up images from Hollywood movies: predatory creatures, out for blood, deliberately hunting down unwary beachgoers. The thing is, they don't even like to eat people. Human blood doesn't get them going the way the blood of the stuff they actually eat does. And when they attack, it's usually just a single bite.

The hunter's diet is comprised of fish, seals, and other assorted sea creatures. We find them so terrifying in part because of the characteristics they've evolved to fit into their ecological niche: strength, agility, and an enormous number of teeth.

Frequently, what happens is that humans cause the sharks to attack by inadvertently copying natural animal activity. They swim way out in the ocean, paddling on their surf boards as they attempt to ride the crest of a great big wave. They don't realize that they seem just like injured seals to the sharks swimming nearby. The result is a very regrettable accident, like a swimmer getting sucked up in a fierce undertow. The people shouldn't be doing what they're doing where they're doing it.

Nevertheless, out of the millions of people who visit beaches each year, only about 12 are killed by sharks. Also, there are just about 90 shark attacks yearly, with many of them being just bumps or nudges, usually only leaving a bruise. Of course it is a tragedy whenever an accident occurs, but we must remember that these are accidents and not intentional actions on the part of sharks.

Strange though it may seem, falling coconuts actually cause 10 times as many injuries to humans as sharks do. The Tiger shark and the great white shark may be the most aggressive of sharks but they very rarely attack humans. You'll find yourself more at risk whilst you drive to the beach, bearing in mind that driving kills more than 40,000 people on the US each year.

When a person is bitten by a shark, of course the victim deserves sympathy. But so the hundreds of sharks that will be hunted and killed in revenge. The sharks have no idea what they have done or why we are trying to kill them; unlike humans, they can't be told why they are being subjected to a punishment. We have only two choices: to kill sharks, or to live with them peacefully. Killing them hasn't made us safer, so perhaps we should try the second option.

Although the Hollywood image of sharks has left many people afraid of the water, it is important to be aware of the fact that these fish are not seeking out humans as prey. In fact, shark attacks on humans usually only result in a single bite and they would prefer to eat their typical food rather than humans. Strange though it may seem, falling coconuts actually cause 10 times as many injuries to humans.

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