Saturday, June 05, 2010

Shark Attack or Accident?

Ever so often, Bruce goes and gets himself a human.

Not that he really likes to.

Humans taste awful - but ever since Bruce’s Ultra-Great-Great Uncle’s chance meal of a rare Homo erectus rafting out of Africa 1.5 million years ago instantly cured him of his gout, snacking on humans for medicinal purposes has become a valued family tradition.

When mum isn’t watching, Bruce spits it right back out but sometimes, as her nature would dictate, she insists on
lurking nearby and he’s got no choice but to close his eyes and swallow.
Once, he tried pretending to make a mistake and munched on some Seal instead - alas to no avail: as everybody knows, Bruce is endowed with preternatural senses and thus infallible, and his cheating earned him a severe scolding along with a double helping of human.

Other than that, Bruce is just being you good old average killer.

Most of the time, he will just lurk, stalk and devour and generally engage in his usual unpredictable and hence, misunderstood behavior.
Sometimes however, when in need of a dental make-over, he will go and bite a propeller (which he obviously knows for being a propeller) or a Shark diving cage (which he obviously knows for being a Shark cage) to make space for a brand spanky new set of replacement teeth.
Or, he will decide to hone his hunting skills by knowingly chasing after some decoy or surf board which being infallible and endowed with preternatural senses, he instantly recognizes for what they are.
And sometimes, when afflicted by human-induced stomach bloating, he will voluntarily (and knowingly) swallow old tires, anchors and even license plates to re-establish his buoyancy.

And when particularly boisterous, he will sneak up on some unsuspecting diver, scare the bejeesus out of him and then nibble at his strobes which owing to his infallible, and preternatural senses, he obviously recognizes as being strobes – all good fun really, and well within the unpredictable, misunderstood and yet, preternaturally infallible behavioral spectrum of any member of Bruce’s tribe!

Have I completely lost my mind?
Quite - but what has actually prompted me to write this stupidity is the frustrating comments thread on this article about Jimmy’s book.

Among the commentators, it comes at no surprise that I discover the token Shark conspiracist and voyeuristic parasite Richard Harris.
Like any self respecting roach, he has not simply gone away but keeps crawling back out from his hidey hole, this time to bite at Jimmy’s ankles.
Oh well, all Harris has once again managed to do, is to prove that he’s nothing but a pathetic bottom feeder – not to worry.

Drudown on the other hand is crafty.
Apparently equally obsessed with the same morbid fascination for Shark attacks, he is obviously intelligent, erudite and very well documented on the specific subject – oh, and very very self enamored on top of that! It’s not the first time that I come across his propositions and actually unpleasantly remember his comments on an old and unfortunately, hence deleted thread on SouthernFriedScience as being basically a carbon copy of the present ones.

His modus operandi is essentially, to provoke the Shark conservationists by depicting Sharks as man eaters and then, to smugly pick apart any inevitable dissenting opinion.
The latter is of course easy: like it or not, the man is absolutely right and anybody denying the obvious, a fool: some species of Sharks have attacked and eaten people, period! And the fixation on calling everything an accident - pure Ritter!

The bulk of his ranting is however nothing but smug pseudoscientific BS.

Yes, maybe

With regards to "accidents" resulting from alleged "mistaken identity", this misguided “theory” totally disregards the shark’s uniquely adapted perceptive faculties OTHER than sight, e.g., ampullae of lorenzini, hearing, smell and lateral lines. By virtue of natural selection, ALL of these enable sharks to quickly identify and differentiate potential meals. The human being does NOT emit the same electro magnetic current as a seal, a turtle or any marine creature… There is no scientific evidence supporting "mistaken identity" nor is it subject to the scientific method.

And yet, Sharks continue to make obvious mistakes and ingest and attack a large variety of inedible items with electromagnetic and other signatures that are completely different from their habitual prey – the principal, and fatal one being fishing lures!
And why have they not learned (having had time immemorial to adapt) to aggregate on our beaches that are teeming with suitable and largely defenseless prey, but continue to engage in the cumbersome and frustrating business of hunting Fishes and Seals instead - maybe, because that’s what they normally prey on?

As to the following, what can I say

Yet because the human/h. erectus has been in ocean for over 1mm-2mm years, we are part of the marine food a competitor and prey item for a handful of sharks… Until someone can disprove my theories, I don't care if you head the ISAF, bunk science is bunk science… Why don't you enlist your favorite shark guru and have them rebut my theories right here…

It’s of course utter rubbish, as in sutor ne supra!
First and foremost, and contrary to religion and all those whacko new age and conspiracy theories, science (as in the abovementioned scientific method) does not work that way!
Nobody has to disprove anybody’s theories, it's very much the contrary: in science and truth-finding in general, he who advances a hypothesis has the onus of proving his assertions - and no, rhetoric is no scientific proof, however erudite it may be!

But for the sake of the stupid argument: Drudown wants to make us believe that Sharks have somehow learned to specifically identify humans as prey items, and that that knowledge has been passed down through the generations ever since Homo erectus rafted out of Africa (?), or whatever.
By world of mouth? Or has the knowledge been imprinted genetically – and if so, through which mechanism and owing to which selective evolutionary pressure?

But I’m digressing as always.
I’ve said it before, any explanations for the causes of Shark attacks are ultimately nothing but hypotheses that may, or may not be plausible but will forever remain untested and thus, scientifically unproven – for obvious reasons!

Plus, really, who cares!
By any metrics, Shark attacks are freak events, an utter nothingness when compared to the deluge of tragedies afflicting humankind – so can we all please stop hyperventilating?
Yes the stupid stereotypes, the voyeuristic trolls and the public’s fascination with Shark attacks are a reliable source of income for the tabloids and Discovery Channel and thus particularly irritating – but let’s face it, that’s just how people are.

What however really frustrates me is that it is us, the Shark conservationists, who ultimately provide a platform for the paparazzi like Harris and Drudown, and the stupid Con-troversies!

As Drudown correctly remarks, there is nothing mutually exclusive about conservation and the truth!
Like many of their terrestrial counterparts, some species of Shark sometimes feed on humans despite the fact that people are not their primary prey - and guess what: it’s totally OK!
It makes them neither Bad nor Good, they are just being predators!

So why our denial, our massaging of numbers, our politically correct lingo, our constant belittling of the risks, our pseudoscience and stereotypes, our unhelpful demonizing of the fishermen? Does anybody really believe that it is helpful?
Do Lion conservationists resort to lying and disinformation when trying to protect Lions?

Thing is, the truth is on our side anyway!
Far from being the stalking, ever-hungry killers, even the biggest predatory Sharks appear to be unendingly tolerant of aquatic recreationists in general and divers in particular. As somebody who has logged thousands of cage-less baited dives with some of the most maligned species, I fully concur with Jimmy when he says that they are nothing but smart, graceful, interesting and COOL – and frustratingly shy on top of that!
And let me add that I never, ever had the feeling that they were sizing me up as a potential meal, ever!

Having said this, one must however never forget that they are at the same time incredibly powerful and potentially lethal!
Shark attacks will continue to occur as long as people will continue to frequent the Oceans. Most will be hit-and-run strikes by small piscivorous Sharks and some, accidents like the tragic death of Markus Groh – and a tiny minority will be genuine predatory events.

The sooner we accept that and abandon our failed marketing, or whatever, the sooner we can start educating the public about the true nature of the animals we love.
It has worked with the big terrestrial predators and I have no doubt that over time, people will come to appreciate the big predatory Sharks for what they really are: potentially lethal and awe inspiring but at the same time, fascinating and once you get to know them better, even endearing – and above all, essential for the health of their habitat and tragically endangered.

As to those trolls – without our stupid clamoring, they are nothing!
As they say where I come from: Raglio d’asino non sale in cielo!

Enough said.

1 comment:

Robert said...

That is a mouthful of truth.

People that think they know about sharks because they read a newspaper article or watched something on local television or the Discovery Channel tell me to not get in the water with lemon sharks because they are dangerous, or that I may get swallowed by a whale shark.
With over 400 species of sharks, their collective behavior is not an exact science..
but their importance to the environment is.