Actually, no. Despite the two recent tragedies in Australia, according to the facts, death by shark attack is so rare that it’s not worth worrying about.
You’re more likely to win the lottery than be bitten by a shark.
Every Xmas in the US, trees and decorations cause an average of 250 injuries and 40 fatalities, while sharks in the US are responsible for around one fatality every two years.
So Americans are 80 times more likely to be killed by a Xmas tree, but nobody is hunting them down. We put them in our homes, and surround them with our children. So although sharks are technically much safer, nobody is surrounding them with children. It’s outrageous!
Worldwide there are on average only four fatal shark attacks every year. At Australian beaches, you’re umpteen times more likely to drown, be injured by a surfboard or laugh at a fat European in tiny bathers.
At beaches around the world you’re actually 60 times more likely to be killed by a falling coconut, than a shark.
But would Jaws be as terrifying if instead of a shark, it was a coconut or a Xmas tree? I don’t know, but that is a movie I’d pay tosee.
So if the chances of being attacked by a shark are so low, why are we so scared of sharks?
They do tend to kill us humans pretty horrifically, and a large part of our fear of sharks has to do with the way we’ve evolved. Or haven’t.
Technology has moved much faster than our brains, and on an instinctual level we have trouble telling the difference between real life, a movie or a photo.
Which explains why people will charge back into a burning building to save pictures of loved ones. Despite logic and reasoning telling us otherwise, part of us is convinced that those photos actually are our loved ones.
Nearly every time we see a shark it’s attacking someone, and although it’s not real or an accurate representation of real life, on a basic level, we’re convinced it must happen in reality all the time.
It doesn’t and despite all the facts, as a surfer I can’t suppress these instincts and am still terrified of sharks. However, I know that my irrational fear is not a good enough reason to hunt down every single dangerous shark.
I could just stay out of the water, but not surfing is nowhere near as much fun as surfing, so that’s not an option.
Hopefully I’m getting so many waves that I don’t have time to think about it. Which never happens, and while waiting, each shadow created in the ocean by the passing clouds is a potential shark.
So I accept the risks, and acknowledge my irrational fears without letting them dominate.
In recent times, the families of shark attack victims have come out on the side of sharks, in one of the most difficult statements I can imagine any human would ever have to make.
If these people, who have suffered the greatest imaginable loss, still believe that we should be protecting sharks, then we should too. Despite what we might feel about them.
For more info: www.amcs.org.au (Australian Marine Conversation Society)
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.
His debut comedy non-fiction book about life on a FIFO mining site is available now online only. The ideal Xmas present! Click here: