Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson has spoken out about a recent spate of shark attacks, asserting that humanity itself is to blame for changing the way the apex predators interact with their environment.
In a blog published by the Huffington Post, Watson notes the statistics, cultural influence, and environmental factors that surround shark attacks, pointing out that while such incidents are on the rise, they remain rare. Only five to 10 fatal shark attacks occur each year, he posits, out of a population of 7.5 billion people on the planet. These statistics mean a person is more likely to die from a lightning strike than an interaction with a shark, yet attacks often leave the predators maligned in the press. Watson cites movies like Jaws and the mockumentaries of Shark Week as detrimental to the public’s perception surrounding sharks and oceanic ecosystems.
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A number of environmental factors contribute to shark attacks, and Watson highlights several. Rapidly decreasing biodiversity may contribute to a lack of food for sharks, leaving them more apt to strike, he postulates. Surfers and spearfishermen can also resemble prey animals, either through their silhouette or the scent of recently caught fish, and such misidentifications often lead to attacks, particularly in waters that have been altered by human actions to attract sharks. Drumlines, for example, can have a far different effect than intended, as a shark killed by the equipment quickly becomes prey (and an attractant) for other predators.
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Watson also addresses the political situation surrounding sharks in Western Australia. Noting that there is a state of near panic among politicians and media in the region, he asserts that the killing of sharks is not the answer. Western Australia has faced heavy criticism recently over a “serious threat” policy that allows for the targeted extermination of protected white sharks. Some researchers have even threatened to withhold tracking data for sharks from the state government in protest, after a great white was targeted near Warnbro Sound last year using the information.
“For those who believe that sharks are a danger to humanity, the solution for them should be simple – stay the h*** out of the water. The ocean is no place for the ignorant, the arrogant and the craven.”
Ending his piece, Watson implores the reader to look at the situation from the perspective of a shark, alluding to the decimating work of shark finning, a practice that sees the slaughter of a shocking 75 million predators per year. In the final accounting, Watson asserts, mankind may be responsible for far more monstrous attacks than any shark.
[Photo by Sean Gallup/ Getty Images]