As many of you know, this week marks the famed “Shark Week.” For years, Chris and I sat in awe and wonder of the marathon of shark specials. Over the past few years we have noticed a significant dramatization of sharks and recently in the Carolinas, there have been a few shark attacks which has only fueled the media driven fire against sharks. While a stigma will forever be attached to these beautiful creatures as blood thirsty, violent beasts, our goal is to make everyone who we encounter understand, and at the very least, respect sharks for what they truly are, an essential component of the ocean’s food chain.
Sharks come in all shapes, sizes, and innate personalities. While bull sharks can be aggressive, their larger counterparts of similar waters are much more gentle; the whale shark. Sharks have swam in the oceans for over 450 millions years. While sharks are known as voracious predators, fossil evidence suggests they had rows of smooth teeth which were used to consume plants. As fish began to evolve, so did sharks. In order to maintain order within the food chain, sharks evolved to hunt and effectively catch their prey. Because of these evolutionary adaptations, sharks have taken on interesting forms and beautiful patterns with varying behaviors.
One way I try and explain shark attacks to most people is that sharks react out of instinct and do just that…REACT. When swimmers are thrashing about in the water, sharks see this as a distressed seal/fish and instinctively react thinking this is a tasty meal when in fact it is a sour, bitter human, a displeasing taste to most animals. As for surfers being attacked, their paddling out to catch a large, curling swell resembles a seal, leisurely swimming about, unaware of the imminent doom below. I have been diving with sharks and I can assure you they are peaceful creatures who go about their business if you respect their space and understand their behavior. Think about walking through a park and hearing what you think is a gunshot and a child begins to scream/cry. At first your heart races and you immediately protect your loved ones or hide behind cover. When you realize that the child’s balloon had popped, you quickly dismiss your initial concerns and shrug off the bit of humiliation you quickly feel. Unfortunately we have a higher sense of reasoning that sharks don’t possess but you can see how easy it is to overreact due to instinct and misconstrue a simple stimulus. A recent theory for why shark attacks are on the rise is that there are merely more humans in the water as the population continues to explode exponentially making it statistically more likely to occur.
The next time you read or hear about a shark attack, never judge the shark, think about the scenario and why it may have happened. If you see a shark, give it space and appreciate its beauty.