July 18, 2012

DUN, dun, DUN, dun: Shark-attack mystique far scarier than reality

Shark attacks 'are very uncommon,' an expert says, and only 10 percent of shark species have been reported to attack humans.

By North Cairn ncairn@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Shark Diving in Guadalupe Island
click image to enlarge

A great white shark is pictured near Guadalupe Island, 150 miles off Mexico's Baja California peninsula.

The Associated Press

CHEW ON THESE ODDS

BEING HIT BY LIGHTNING: 1 in 1 million

WINNING MEGABUCKS: 1 in 4.5 million

BEING ATTACKED BY A SHARK: 1 in 11.5 million

Sources: National Weather Service, Maine Lottery Association, University of Florida International Shark Attack File

The element of surprise doesn't make the confrontation easier, or safer. Since large sharks are seldom seen along beaches, the rare instance provokes a lot of fear and reawakens outdated, misinformed ideas about them.

Then, too, there's the "Jaws" effect.

"Jaws," the 1974 novel by Peter Benchley and the movie version a year later, recounts the story of a great white shark that preys on a small resort town and the voyage of three men who hunt it down.

" 'Jaws' did terrible things to sharks," Hayden-Rodriques said. Both a literary and cinematic hit at the time, the images of that great white imprinted a whole generation -- and their children -- with terror about a creature that rarely attacks people.

"But being cautious of things bigger than us that we don't understand, in an environment we don't understand," makes good sense, she said. Most campers, for example, know what animals could pose a threat to them, and they plan accordingly, even identifying a possible escape route from predators.

But the sea is not the human world.

"Humans," said Hayden-Rodriques, "kill millions of sharks a year."

Staff Writer North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: ncairn@pressherald.com

 

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