Fearful of sharks? Your risk of being bitten by a shark is very , very, very low.
You are more likely to be killed in a hunting accident, lightening strike or sand pit than a shark. In 2007, one person worldwide was killed by a shark bite. During that same period, 793 people died due to bicycle accidents and 49 died due to dog bites.
In the U.S., the country with the highest number of attacks, your odds of drowning at a beach are 1 in 3.5 million. Your odds of dying from a shark attack are less than 1 in 264 million. Bees, wasps and snakes are responsible for far more fatalities each year.
Many more people are injured and killed on land while driving to and from the beach than by sharks in the water. At the beach, dehydration, jellyfish and stingray stings and sunburn are far more likely to occur than a shark bite.
The extreme rarity of shark bites do not justify out-of-proportion fear of or lack of empathy for sharks.
Aren’t sharks just mindless, blood thirsty monsters from whom we need protection?
Humans are not on the menu of any shark. Sharks are intelligent and generally afraid of people.
Shark bites appear to be a case of curiosity or mistaken identity in low visibility – highlighted by the fact that sharks almost never desire a second bite. We are an unnatural source of food, and the shark swims away to find more suitable food elsewhere.
The man-eating monster is a myth that Hollywood and the media have created in order to increase ratings and sell newspapers. Actual attacks far outpace reports – as do the severity of the incidents. In KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), where the nets are installed, there have only been 27 fatalities from sharks in the last 102 years. That averages to one fatality every 3 – 4 years.
There are many places in the world where sharks and humans use the exact same water and can peacefully coexist without injury to either party, including on the other coast of South Africa, a coast that has no nets but a very healthy white shark population. And, throughout the country, many individuals safely seek out shark encounters on a daily basis, safely, to experience sharks without the unnecessary cages or nets between them, and the sharks.
Isn’t the only good shark is a dead shark? Why should I even care about sharks?
Like them or not, sharks play a crucial role on this planet. Remove sharks from the oceans and we are tampering with our primary food and air sources. And the livelihoods of millions that rely on the oceans for their main source of income.
Sharks play a critical role in our oceans – the world’s largest and most important ecosystem. Ocean’s provide billions of tons of foods each year, and more oxygen to this planet than all the rain forests combined.
As the apex predators of the oceans, the role of sharks is to keep other marine life in healthy balance. Remove sharks and that balance is seriously upset. Scientific studies show that elimination of sharks can cause disastrous effects including the collapse of fisheries and the death of coral reefs.
One study in the U.S. indicates that the elimination of sharks resulted in the destruction of the shellfish industry in waters off the mid-Atlantic states of the United States, due to the unchecked population growth of cow-nose rays, whose mainstay is scallops. Other studies in Belize have shown reef systems falling into extreme decline when the sharks have been over-fished. Without predators, the grouper population spiked, which in turn reduced the natural balanced population of algae-eating fish such as the parrot fish, and the coral became overgrown with algae, destroying an entire ecosystem.
On the East Coast of South Africa, the nets have already been linked as one contributing factor to an upset in the ecosystem due to the steep decline of the zambezi shark population – as noted by KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board scientists themselves.
Aren’t sharks worthless anyway?
In addition to the critical role sharks play in our environment, sharks in South Africa contribute a significant amount of revenue to the South African economy and provide countless jobs.
Tiger shark diving in Aliwal Shoal generated an estimated R18 million (USD $1.8 million) during 2007, while white shark cage diving in Gansbaai generates approximately R289 million per annum (USD $28.9 million). For every 8 tourists that come to South Africa, one job is created, and tourism in total accounted for USD $14 Billion in revenue in 2006 – one of the largest and the fastest growing industries in South Africa. Live sharks mean tourists, jobs and money. And that is recurring income – not one time income when a shark is killed.
What is the value of one shark? From a tourism perspective, each ragged-tooth shark could be given the value R50,000 yearly (USD $7,000) based upon tourism income for each of its 40 years or so of life. That equates to R2,250,000 (USD $310 000) over its lifetime. In the last thirty years, the nets have been responsible for the death of over 6,400 of these sharks. Using simple math (and not accounting for the loss of these sharks in terms of additional offspring), this equates to a loss of over R1.4 Billion (USD $1.4 million).
And South Africa is not alone. It has been estimated that each individual Caribbean reef shark in the Bahamas is worth about USD $150,000 to the Bahamian economy each and every year. In the Maldives it is roughly estimated that shark watching generates USD $ 2.3 million per year in direct diving revenue.
Sharks are quickly disappearing from this planet.
Sharks are in critical danger of extinction due to overfishing. Over 100 million sharks are killed each year. That’s over 11,300 an hour. Regionally, 90% of populations of the large shark species are already gone – including those targeted by nets. 1/4 of the over 500 shark species are already facing the threat of extinction with more to follow over the next decade.
There are few places in the world that shark populations are healthy – and sharks are not under attack. Three sharks have been protected world wide by the CITES treaty: great whites, whale sharks, and basking sharks.
Not all sharks are dangerous. In fact, most aren’t.
Of the over 500 species of sharks, only a handful have been linked to any incidents with humans – that is less than 5% of all shark species.
Given the largest shark, the whale shark, is a plankton eater, and the Port Jackson shark has teeth as crushing plates for eating invertebrates, it is wrong to generalize about all sharks. Although more than 210 species of sharks occur in Southern African waters and over 60 are unique to these waters including species like cat sharks, hound sharks, saw sharks, dogfish and chimaeras, the vast majority never come into contact with humans. Only three South African shark species have been confirmed in shark attacks on humans - tiger shark, bull shark, great white shark. The vast majority of sharks are harmless to humans.