Fatal shark attacks do not justify the hunting of ocean predators

Kati Gardella, Crier staff

In wake of a summer of monumental shark attacks, we need to reconsider the balance of the humans vs. nature.

The knowledge that humans are not at the top of the food chain makes us both uncomfortable with our own mortality and exhilarated that there are creatures greater in size and power than us. It is not difficult to determine why franchises like Jaws (there are actually four movies in total) and Jurassic Park are so popular.

Sharks are also inherently iconic since they are large deadly fish. The Meg, about a killer prehistoric shark, hit theaters this summer, and shark media such as the Sharknado movies and Shark Week are enjoyed by countless viewers.

Sharks, however, are not only a method of thrill and entertainment. They are dangerous.

Central Queensland Harbor in Australia became a nightmarish setting comparable to Amity Island after two extreme shark attacks occurred within the span of a day.

Twelve-year-old Hannah Papps was on a family holiday when she was bitten by a shark while swimming in relatively shallow water in Cid Harbor. Less than a day earlier, forty-six-year-old Justine Barwick was bitten on her left thigh while snorkeling, requiring an 18-hour-long operation to save her leg.

These situations exemplify the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The area of the ocean where the attacks occurred has long been regarded by locals as a “no-go zone” for swimming.

In some more shark populated areas, shark drum lines are used as a preventative measure. They are stocked with bait to deter sharks from attacking humans.

It is not unusual, however, for the drum lines not to be frequently refilled.

Jonathan Clark, who works at Sea Shepherd Australia, stated that “it’s not even a false sense of safety, it’s a placebo.”

The ocean is undeniably a shark’s natural habitat, and not a human’s. Real life is also not like the Jaws movies, where sharks go to extreme measures to target human prey.

In most cases of shark attacks, the humans were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, mostly linked with Felson’s and Cohen’s Routine Activities Theory, which states that a crime occurs with a motivated offender, a vulnerable victim, and lack of capable guardianship.

As depicted in Jaws, once a shark attack occurs, people get extremely vengeful and bloodthirsty against sharks in general.

After the attacks in Queensland Harbor, four tiger sharks were killed by baited hooks. In other words, they were given the death penalty.

To look at it from a criminal justice perspective, in a crime, there’s the actus rea, which is the criminal act, and the mens rea, which is the criminal mindset. It’s likely that neither was present, as the sharks were simply reacting to basic biological instincts to feed, as they often do on whales, seals, smaller fish, and unfortunately, pollution.

I disagree with the decision to prosecute sharks by trying to hunt down the possible perpetrators because a lot of non-human-eating sharks die in that process. I would only support shark hunting if there is a serious need for population control.

The most effective way to avoid shark attacks is to avoid shark-infested waters and pay attention to warnings.

There are even apps, such as “Sharktivity” that were created with the purpose of receiving timely warnings about increased shark activity. Of course, no method is one hundred percent effective, but simply avoiding dangerous parts of the ocean is a good way to prevent shark bites.  

Massachusetts shark expert Gregory Skomal said that the Sept. 15 shark attack on boogie boarding Arthur Medici was likely caused by a shark who was simply aiming to hunt a seal.

Medici’s death was the first shark-caused fatality in Cape Cod in the past 80 years. The last recorded death bya shark was a teenage boy who died after being attacked while swimming in 1936.

Cape Cod is getting more populated with sharks, namely great whites. This is caused by both federal laws that protect sharks and the fact that the seal population has also increased in Cape Cod waters.

It is much more likely for one to die in a car accident than by a shark attack, as there are less than one hundred fatalities from shark attacks a year.

There have been only 45 fatal attacks in the United States (including Hawaii) since 1958. In 2017 alone, over 40,000 motor vehicle deaths occurred in the U.S.