Sharks are scary
April 20, 2006 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Though JAWS scared the bejezus out of almost everybody and spread around the notion that sharks are grizzly agents of mindless revenge (this link possibly NSFW), they are, in fact, quite vulnerable to human activities (this doesn't make the prospect of being eaten alive while swimming any less scary). NOAA has some good fact sheets to help dispel what unreasonable fears you may have of these much maligned creatures, and if that doesn't do it, maybe this'll help.
posted by Pecinpah (20 comments total)
precautions include avoiding water with known effluents or sewage, avoiding uneven tanning ("sharks see contrast particularly well"), and not harassing a shark.

They should add that sharks are not mammals, sharks do not bite ALL the time, and the purpose of the shark is not to flip out and kill people.
posted by eddydamascene at 5:04 PM on April 20, 2006

I saw a shark break the water about 12 feet from me when I was surfing once. Got out and sat on the beach for a few hours. Sharks are indeed scary.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:26 PM on April 20, 2006

Grizzlies now, too?

It's not safe to go into the water!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:30 PM on April 20, 2006

Also of note to those who wish to avoid sharks, John R. Williams, a Temple University Researcher has been researching/developing a steroid based shark repellant.
"Apparently, there is some receptor on the shark's gills that reacts to the steroid," he says. "This is how the fish does it in nature. When the fish feels threatened by the shark, it disperses the natural compound into the water and the trailing shark has to swim through it, tastes it as it ingests it, and then is repulsed by it."

Although those early tests were "somewhat inconclusive," Williams feels that the researchers are on the right path. He plans to return to Bimini with smaller equipment in the future to retest his new compounds that are based on the natural shark repellents.
posted by illovich at 5:30 PM on April 20, 2006

Very scary (youtube link to BBC Planet Earth doc footage).
posted by chrispy at 6:03 PM on April 20, 2006

Or you could just pack some Bat Shark Repellent (as seen in the original movie).
posted by ooga_booga at 6:03 PM on April 20, 2006

jesus, I find this picture the most horrendous. The fact that the nearly gutted skeleton is connected to legs with shoes still laced to them really gets something primal going in me...
posted by 6am at 5:43 PM on April 20, 2006

I was standing in shallow water off a beach in Massachussetts (USA) when a three-foot sand shark swam toward my legs, turning away at the last moment. It's hard to run in waist-deep water. I'm sure now that there was no real danger, but sudden primal fear tastes like copper pennies.
posted by longsleeves at 6:31 PM on April 20, 2006

I can tell you from first hand observation that you won't get a chance to spray a great white with anything- you're not even going to see what hit you.

From everything I've heard your best chance of surviving a shark attack by a big shark is to be wearing a wetsuit. They don't seem to like the taste.
posted by fshgrl at 6:45 PM on April 20, 2006

Every year 200 million sharks fall prey to humans. [Via and the Shark project (in german)]
posted by McSly at 6:49 PM on April 20, 2006

I like conservation, but that ad program just makes me want to eat dogfish (and I would if I didn't know it was loaded with mercury).

I'm all for killing sharks provided it's done at a sustainable level.
posted by Citizen Premier at 7:02 PM on April 20, 2006

Pretty hard to do as they breed seldom, have few young and take a long time to reach maturity.
posted by fshgrl at 9:25 PM on April 20, 2006

It's still quite feasible to harvest them. 200 million certainly doesn't sound like a good number (and it probably isn't), but bear in mind that it's probably not as bad as it sounds, as that's all species of sharks, not just one.

I'm not going to deny that overfishing is a problem, but I think trying to push the mentality that humans shouldn't kill any of a certain species because they're "noble" or whatever actually damages the cause of environmentalism and conservation, because it ignores practicallity.

I'd like to see an ad campaign that shows cooperation between those whose industry depends on using natural resources and environmentalists. That's the only way progress is to be made.
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:19 PM on April 20, 2006

I never said it was hard to harvest sharks sustainably because they were "noble" I said it was because they breed seldom, have few young and take a long time to reach maturity. It's also hard to get a good population estimates or to delineate seperate stocks when you have an incomplete understanding of migratory patterns and how localised depletion will affect the resource. After all if you overfish your source popoulation you are fucked, even if the sink pops looks ok for a decade, or two in the case of something that lives as long as these sharks.

But I'm only a marine/fisheries biologist, what would I know about sustainable harvesting of our ocean resources?
posted by fshgrl at 10:49 PM on April 20, 2006

I was in an aquarium* with some sharks the other week. They tend to keep away from scuba divers because of the bubbles. The rays (up to 3m across) came close enough to touch.
Sharks will attack surfers though, because they look like seals when they are lieing on their boards waiting for a set.
Sharks kill about 8 people globally per year, which is 10 times less than falling coconuts. You should be alot more scared of coconut palms if you are the paranoid type.
More people suffer human bites in New York city than shark bites globally per year (by a factor of 22).

As usual with the ocean (and nature generally) if you take the time to understand and show some respect you can enjoy what it has to offer.

*It is appalingly marketed as a scary thing to do, which is of course bollocks.
posted by asok at 4:41 AM on April 21, 2006

Wow, kick-ass links, asok. Thanks.
posted by Pecinpah at 5:40 AM on April 21, 2006

For what it's worth, Cecil disagrees about the coconuts that asok mentions. Not that death-by-shark isn't also highly over-hyped...
posted by Squid Voltaire at 10:11 AM on April 21, 2006

Killing sharks is idiotic - they are a major predator. It would be like eliminating lions from Africa - it could uh, cause some problems.
posted by agregoli at 10:15 AM on April 21, 2006

Yeah, I'm not in favor of killing sharks because they scare the hell out of us or kill a couple of us every year.
(More people are killed by pigs, I believe, than sharks)

But the problem is sharks don't know every year we kill 200 million of them. They're just not afraid of us.

Every other creature (that we haven't suckered into trusting us so we can eat them) has the sense to run like hell when they see humans.

God's balls, we have nuclear weapons! We're not even trying to eradicate them, it's just a 'sorta' thing.

Do they care? Nope.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:24 PM on April 21, 2006

Citizen Premier: "I like conservation, but that ad program just makes me want to eat dogfish (and I would if I didn't know it was loaded with mercury)."

Ahh, Mercury, sweetest of the transition metals.
posted by TheCowGod at 6:36 AM on April 22, 2006

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