Friday, January 30, 2009

Shark Sightings: a humorous perspective from New Zealand

Here is an amusing article from Stuff, a new Zealand web paper, first brought to my attention by my friends at the SharkDiver blog. The writer is having fun with all the news media hysteria that seems to always erupt with every shark sighting.

With every discussion or screening/lecture I conduct, at some point I have to respond to an audience member's question about whether the oceans are safe. Out comes all the statistics to try to put it in perspective. It still seems to be a "built-in" nervous response with the general public caused by, on average, a half dozen shark-related fatalities worldwide each year. Then they all drive home on the freeways where 50,000 people are killed annually in the U.S. alone.

Here's a part of Linley Boniface's take on it:

Shark yarns make me yawn
Linley Boniface
The Dominion Post | Monday, 26 January 2009

I never thought I'd say this, but I am bored with sharks. This summer, it has been impossible to open a newspaper or turn on the TV without being subjected to yet another daring shark escape story.

On closer inspection, these yarns have invariably turned out to involve nothing more thrilling than an exceptionally timorous surfer paddling for safety after spotting a fishy shadow pottering quietly along the shoreline, minding its own business.

While sharks in Australia do, as the Australians rather wonderfully say, "take" the occasional swimmer, Kiwi sharks are about as predatory as a newborn ladybug.
Occasionally, a shark will accidentally graze a surfer's calf with a tooth, while yawning: cue national panic and the mass closure of beaches.

Silliest of the many absurd shark reports the media has pestered us with this summer was one from Radio New Zealand. The national broadcaster quoted Constable John Paul Tremain as urging people to stay away from beaches near Dunedin because a large shark had allegedly chased a couple of surfers from the water.

RNZ said Constable Tremain did not know the "exact size or breed of shark" - terrifying news in itself; someone is breeding the things! - but was convinced it was "lurking with intent". Lurking with intent? Intent to do what? The sea is where sharks live: sharks no more lurk in the sea than I lurk in my house.

I would have thought the fact that the shark didn't bother eating the two surfers was sufficient proof of its benevolent intentions, but it would have had to have been waving a white flag and making a peace sign with its dorsal fin to alleviate Constable Tremain's suspicions.

(Read complete article.)

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