• Question: What are your thoughts on how sharks are stigmatized? Do you think they are as aggressive as people make them out to be?

    Asked by hear11rat to Samantha on 28 Jan 2022.
    • Photo: Samantha Sherman

      Samantha Sherman answered on 28 Jan 2022:

      Great question! The general view of sharks is sometimes frustrating when people reduce them to ‘prehistoric killing machines.’ It has led to a lot of shark culls and targeted fishing, even though they are responsible for so few deaths per year. Sharks are actually smart and cautious predators, otherwise they would not have survived for so long. First off, there are over 500 species of sharks and only a few that are dangerous to humans.

      The species that are involved in incidents with humans are not out there trying to eat people. We don’t taste good to them and don’t have the fat and protein they want. Most times someone is bit, it is likely mistaken identity. When I said sharks are cautious predators, this is because they need to be. If they get into a fight, they could be injured and then they can’t hunt and will starve. So instead of trying to fight, they quickly bite their intended prey to injure them before there is a chance for the prey to fight. This is why you don’t really hear about people being eaten by sharks, they are BITTEN. Some sharks are really big with strong, sharp teeth, so even a bite can be very serious. But most of the time, the shark realizes that’s not food and leaves.

      There are some cases where a shark might intentionally bite a person, but for self-defence. Some people try to swim after sharks or poke them and touch them, so a shark might be afraid and bite in self-defence. Also, if there is competition for food or they are territorial, they will let you know to leave the area either by bumping into you or arching their backs or showing you their teeth. If you don’t leave, then they may bite to protect themselves and their territory.

      Basically, sharks do get a bad rep. for very very occasionally biting a person, but SO MANY people are in the ocean all the time. If sharks were very aggressive and “man-eaters,” a lot more people would be getting bitten by sharks.