Great White Shark Spotted In Cape Cod, Cause For Concern Or Media Hype?

Amazing footage of not one great white shark, but two, was captured just off of the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts this past weekend. The footage of the two great white sharks was captured by Scott Koerner from the Marine Biological Laboratory. Great white sharks tend to be rather solitary creatures, so this unique glimpse of two great white sharks together was an amazing treat. With all of the sensational headlines like “Jaws Returns” going around, is the sighting of a great white shark something to be concerned about or is all the fear of the great white shark just Hollywood-style hype?

The great white shark is perhaps the most vilified of all the world’s animals, yet, ironically enough, sharks have much more to fear from humans than humans have need to fear sharks, even the great white shark. While you do see occasional headlines about a shark attack, sometimes a great white shark but oftentimes a different species, the fact is that you only have about a 1 in 3.7 million chance of being killed by a great white shark or other shark species. Even in the most recent peak shark attack year, 2010, there were still only about five human deaths due to shark attacks; whereas humans kill 26-73 million sharks world-wide every year just in the shark fin trade alone. In fact, there have been less than 500 deaths due to shark attacks since 1580 in total- that’s only one person a year in the United States. In reality, you are more likely to die from a mosquito bite or a hippo attack than you are to get killed by a great white shark.

So how did the great white shark become the media’s public enemy No. 1? When Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg, hit the big screen in 1975, it did a phenomenal job of turning the great white shark into the monster everyone fears lurking in the deep. In fact, it may have done too good of a job. Since then, images of the massive rows of teeth lunging towards a caged diver, the great white shark silently stalking its pray as the ocean’s top natural predator does so well dominated the world’s view of the great white shark. But as scary as Hollywood has made the great white shark, Jaws’ portrayal was completely unrealistic and ironically, the great white shark is not even the most aggressive animal that poses a threat to humans.

Great white sharks are essential to the healthy ocean ecosystem and without a healthy and stable ocean, we simply can not survive. The truth is that the deep where the great white shark is lurking provides the majority of the planet’s oxygen, absorbs harmful UV rays, helps to stabilize the weather patterns around the world, and provides a major food source for millions of people; this is why shark conservation is so important. So the next time you spot a great white shark, instead of thinking of the great white shark as a monster you just might want to say a little thank you for its services to keep our world turning.

[Image Credit: Terry Goss]