Figures show
February 22, 2002 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Figures show shark attacks down in 2001. Before September 11, it was the "Season of the Shark." Perhaps we can forgive the newscasters their excess in this matter. Or may be it's another reason to make sure you get your news from multiple sources and different media--now, more than ever.
posted by piskycritters (10 comments total)
Here is some more from the International Shark Attack File.
posted by piskycritters at 6:35 AM on February 22, 2002

Certainly the overall numbers weren't there -- but the Jesse Arbogast incident was bound to spark interest and dread. It was a dramatic story.
posted by dhartung at 6:42 AM on February 22, 2002

What you probably didn't hear about the Jesse Arbogast story was a lot more dramatic than what you did. His 'heroic' uncle, the one who supposedly wrestled the boy's arm from the shark's mouth, was actually surf casting for sharks the morning of the attack. Having previously had poor luck, he chose to chum the waters he was fishing (every ocean lifeguard's worst nightmare). Finally managing to snag a decent sized shark, he fought the fish until it was exhausted, then called for his family to come watch him drag it in. Everyone ran down to witness the 'heroic' fisherman land his catch, including little Jesse, who ran into about two feet of water to obtain a closer view. But the tenacious shark wasn't ready to die just yet, and made a last ditch effort to get away, unfortunately choosing an escape route than ran right underneath little Jesse's armpit. What was described by the media as Tarzan-style speed-swimming, shark-wrestling heroicism on the part of the uncle was really him running down to where the exhausted shark was caught on the beach by an outgoing wave, stabbing the poor beast repeatedly with his fileting knife, and then wrenching Jesse's still bleeding arm from its mouth.

Apart from all the other outrage I felt upon hearing this story (straight from the mouths of the director of Beach Safety at Gulf Islands, whose crew does yearly jet ski and rescue diving training with my agency in St. Johns County, Florida), I was most upset about the fact that not a single media outlet, not matter how big or small, chose to run the full story. I've seen this behavior (chumming from the shoreline) a few times in my career as a lifeguard, and, though I'm sure the vast majority of it takes place due to incorrectable idiocy on the parts of its participants, some people must just be ill-informed, and I'm sure at least a few intrepid fisherman would have taken heed, had they been shown a possible consequence of their actions. Once again, in the name of sensationalization, the media has failed to actually perform any possible public service.

Also, it doesn't help that their particular choice of wording in regard to the uncle's feat of 'bravery' now places public expectations on all ocean lifeguards to swim out and beat to death any aggresive sharks that happen to swim into their patrol.
posted by saladin at 7:23 AM on February 22, 2002

Bah - I still side with the Weekly World News report that Castro had launched an attack on US swimmers with trained Commie sharks. Deep Blue Sea! Deep Blue Sea! Deep Blue Sea!
posted by holycola at 7:24 AM on February 22, 2002

saladin: that was a hoax e-mail that spread rapidly, but has been exposed.

A vicious personal attack on the uncle, for unknown reasons, it has been denied by both him and local officials. Read the weak defense of the idiot in his own droopy words.

Damn. I forgot about that whole little stupid coda, but apparently it will remain the truth in many minds for years to come.
posted by dhartung at 7:40 AM on February 22, 2002

I am fortunate enough to live and surf in the media-proclaimed Shark Bite Capital of the World, otherwise known as New Smyrna Beach. This year we had one less "reported" shark bite than last year.

The reason it was made such a big deal this past summer was because we had so many bites in such a short time frame, prompting closure of the beach and also a mass media frenzy. It's become such a cliche here in town that whenever we see a news van drive by, we figure somebody has just gotten bit.

I have friends who have been bitten, and those were never reported to the media or recorded. Unfortunately this past summer being bitten by a shark was almost the cool thing to do, with everybody wanting their 5 minutes of shark bite fame. It's amazing what people will do to get on television.

It was kinda cool though seeing Manny the Psycho Shark Rider hanging out on the beach right where I surf every day.
posted by fluxcreative at 7:42 AM on February 22, 2002

More on the investigation of the hoax e-mail; the paper linked to above has photos documenting the Arbogast's activities in the moments before the attack, with no fishing tackle visible. Their overview of the hoax story.

I'm an urban legend aficionado, and I'm fascinated at the way saladin wrote his account with vivid detail as if he were, himself, a witness -- though it seems you only heard it from someone who may have seen the e-mail. This is quite common, including made-up corroborating elements and placement in time or space that are all designed to "sell" the story.
posted by dhartung at 8:05 AM on February 22, 2002

dhartung, I too was fooled by the story when I first heard it. It sounded very plausible, and the bogus corroboration made it quite believable. A much better work of fiction than the typical email hoax.

The Arbogast incident, and a few in the Bahamas, gave everyone here in FL a bad case of jaws fever. If you think the national media coverage was overkill, you should have heard the local tv outlets. Just amazing.

But . . . if the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were as clear as the Atlantic, you'd see a lot fewer swimmers in the summer. There are lots of sharks out there.
posted by groundhog at 8:28 AM on February 22, 2002

In retrospect, the shark attacks were clearly Al Qaeda's first wave of attacks on the US. Or else they killed Chandra Levy.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:50 AM on February 22, 2002

I'm getting in on this 4 days late....oh well

There is a greater issue at hand here: sharks live in the ocean- humans do not. Sharks can not hunt on land or grow food or drill for oil or run governmnets into the ground. It is utter human ignorance and arrogance to believe that all that we see is for us to use and abuse.

Sharks are villanized by the sensationalist media for reasons only known to them...well, maybe...I think it is an irrational human reaction to the feeling of helplessness and one of anger that we can be preyed upon- oh, and the media can only sell copy w/ sensationalism...

One thing the media in the US might want to focus on is the reason behind these attacks (in the US and surrounding regions): humans have been recreationally swimming (resorts, maintained beaches, tourism) for a few hundred years- more so after the industrial revolution, as leizure time came to be...this drove sharks further away from shore and altered many shark species' migratory patterns (for those that have them) as well as every other aspect of their lives. Now, sharks are starving. Humans have overfished and killed the main diet for many species. In addition, humans have killed off food supplies by offshore drilling. Why doesn't the media report these apsects?

If you are so arrogant and ignorant to not repsect the domain of the shark, the term used in the aftermath is "natural selection."
posted by ayukna at 4:22 AM on February 26, 2002

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