Friday, June 19, 2015

Michael - telling it like it is!

Well done!

I must say that I'm impressed.
Following the tragic Shark strikes in North Carolina, Michael Domeier is warning Californians about the growing population of GWS on their coast. So far this is good news as it means that protection measures are having the desired effect. And so far, those are juveniles and small subadults, and thus rather harmless  - but one day those Sharks will reach an age where they will gradually switch to larger prey, meaning that the risk of predatory attacks on humans will undoubtedly increase.
This is of course totally in line with the recent statements by Burgess - and once again bravo to Michael for having the guts to tell it like it is!

And yes, I've, gasp, deliberately used the dreaded A word!
This is a Shark attack.

And like I would do in the case of a Cat, or Lion, or Croc, I call it an attack because there is definitely no confusion and there is definitely intent - which in this specific situation is both totally understandable and perfectly fine!

The strikes in North Carolina?
Dunno and that's why I call them strikes - but by the same token, what makes Mr. Barrington state that the assumed Bull Sharks more than likely mistook those kids for Fish? Does he really believe that a Bull Shark is too dumb to discern the difference between snapping at a Fish and severing a human limb - or may this possibly be yet another misguided attempt at PR rehabilitation a la Neff and Hueter?

Seriously, could we please stop with the stupid whitewashing?
Can we please let Sharks be Sharks, meaning that we got to accept that some species are large predators that will from time to time both target and unless disturbed, consume a human? And that many of them will intentionally bite when molested? This makes them neither bad nor good but simply describes what they are = large predators that have every bloody right to predate, and complex animals with a broad array of behaviors among which aggression!
We don't blink an eye about properly describing the equally rare predatory attacks by the Big Cats, Bears and Reptiles - so why this obsession of trying to exculpate Sharks by coming up with lame excuses and trying to introduce politically correct lingo?

Which brings me to this further comment by Michael.
Spot on! Read the testimony, and read this further account, and even the most rabid Shark hugging apologist should clearly discern that this was most definitely a predatory attack - curiosity and testing with their mouth because they got no hands, yada yada, my ass!
Same old same old - especially the pronouncements by the increasingly irritating Neff! This nonsense fatally reminds me of someone else - and we all know how that one ended!

Anyway, having asked, Doc replies
In an article I write way back in the eighties, for Naval Research Reviews entitled why do sharks bite humans, I made it perfectly clear that some sharks actually consider humans as legitimate prey. We all know which ones these are.
I say, the serial breathy couch farting and ultracrepidarianism are bad enough - but misrepresenting Doc is just simply unacceptable!

But enough of that.
Good to see that some within the research community are finally speaking up against the creeping Dolphinization of Sharks. They are certainly not monsters - but by the same token, some of them can be extremely dangerous and need to be treated with the utmost respect and circumspection.
Nothing to do with those recent tragic events mind you - when humans and Sharks share the same space, these things are unfortunately bound to happen. But if we ever want to succeed in mitigating the consequences of this increasingly uneasy cohabitation, we must address all sides of the issue: ever more people encroaching into Shark habitat but also, in some places, more Sharks - some of which will sometimes regard people as food!


OfficetoOcean said...

Yes, yes, yes. 1 million times this.

OfficetoOcean said...

I posted thi on Facebook the other day after reading one of the many articles that came out in the wake of the attacks in NC and it pretty much sums up my feelings on this in a short enough way to avoid writing yet another article on the subject.

“It is important to keep in mind the relative risk of these types of incidents when deciding on the appropriate policy response,” explained David Shiffman, a PhD candidate at the University of Miami and renowned shark expert. “You are more likely to be killed by a lawnmower, a cow, or a toaster than by a shark.”

This is because you are more likely to encounter a lawnmower, a cow or a toaster, than you are a shark.

Yes perspective is needed and yes the media should stop referring to all shark/human interactions as "shark attacks" but I do not believe removing the phrase "shark attack" from the lexicon of the issue is in any way going to alter the public's conscious and subconscious reactions to stories of shark encounters, shark bites and also, yes, shark attacks and nor do I think tenuous statistical comparisons in any way properly address the issue.

In over 20 years of studying the subject of shark attack, one of the main things I've learned is that it is not language which is the issue but the lack of detailed analysis of each incident on a case by case basis and the collation of that information to establish protective measures to enhance the safety of humans using the water.

Christopher Neff's paper on the subject of the politics of Shark Attacks had some brilliant content and was overall, extremely impressive, but I don't personally agree that the term "shark attack" should be whitewashed from the issue because sometimes, albeit rarely, sharks DO attack people in the truest sense of the word.

There are varying degrees of non-injurious and injurious involuntary shark/human interactions and each should be appropriately described but moreover, more education is required for people in areas where potentially dangerous sharks are encountered and that information and education must take into account the location and species specific details inherent to those areas.

It is not so much the terminology of tabloid reports of shark attack which is the issue, more the condensed, hyperbolic and often rushed to press narrative which is the issue because, gentrify all the phrases you like, that will, in most cases, remain unchanged and it is that which causes widespread panic, creating a fear blown out of all proportion.

Megalobomb said...

I agree with the majority of this, but I would argue that most of what is called a "shark attack" isn't. Bring me the bunnies, I have some hugging to do...

I can only speak for white sharks. When they attack something they smash it, spill its guts, come back, and eat. The only survivors are nimble jack-be-quick seals that can outmanoeuvre them (even if seriously injured, only to return to the colony - bleed out - and die). That is an attack in my book, and yes some water users have suffered this fate, but certainly not all - not even the majority.

Now take that white shark and put it next to a floating piece of kelp. The shark will circle it, push it, give it a chomp, swim away. They do this to just about anything at the surface if it catches their eye, is this an "attack"? Intended to immobilize and consume? I don't think so, and it explains the many survivors with bite mark surf boards etc. No human is as nimble as a seal when it comes to avoiding an attacking shark, so point of discussion, how do people survive?

So I do support distinctions, but I live in an imaginary perfect world where none of this matters and people use logic.

Everything else tho, spot on.

DaShark said...

I can only speak for white sharks. When they attack something they smash it, spill its guts, come back, and eat. The only survivors are nimble jack-be-quick seals that can outmanoeuvre them (even if seriously injured, only to return to the colony - bleed out - and die).

Yup that's a GWS predating on a Seal in SA.
I hear that in Lupe they predate on the Elephant Seals completely differently, i.e. by attacking underwater and from above when the ES dive & follow the island's contour when departing to forage.
This is a Shark with a wide trophic niche that also changes as it matures, so I would expect them to be highly adaptive to circumstances both in terms of location and prey. I also hear that different individuals attack differently, possibly as they learn by trial & error and then favor determined strategies once they work for them.

So maybe the MO when attacking a human could be different - based on circumstances and individuality.

Of course all of this is idle speculation - but whenever I encounter generalizations and absolutes I'm somewhat skeptical. Especially voluntary behavior tends to be so much more complex as it is influenced by all those countless variables.

Shark Diver said...

I agree with you on not generalizing. May favorite saying about white sharks is that they are predictably unpredictable. Think about it, they have been unchanged for millions of years and adults hunt various pinnipeds and mammals that are way smarter than they are. If they had a tell, their prey would have figured out a long time ago how to avoid them.

In my blog I also wrote that we should portray these sharks the way they are. If we keep telling people that sharks only want to be hugged, we are looked at as complete idiots, anytime an attack happens. How can we expect the public to take our conservation message seriously, if we misrepresent what these animals really are.

Sharks are neither mindless killers, nor are they harmless pets. They can and on rare occasions do attack humans. We don't have to fear them, but we definitely need to respect them.

I like the way the Southern California Lifeguards handle the issue. They are starting to use drones to look for sharks and inform people of their presence. Occasionally,if those sharks get too close to the beaches, they will temporarily close a beach. There is no talk of culling the sharks.

Megalobomb said...

If they had a tell, their prey would have figured out a long time ago how to avoid them.

Their prey do indeed figure out their 'tell' all the time (i.e. specific timing of attacks, methods, where attacks take place the most) and avoid them very successfully. Otherwise, no marine mammals would survive to breeding age, ney? White sharks are spectacular predators, but I would argue they are one of the MOST predictable.

Like how all squares are rhombi but not all rhombi are squares - all shark attacks are shark incidents, but not all shark incidents are attacks. Distinctions are important so that we can learn from them - just like seals do. I think calling everything an attack is just as unhelpful as calling everything an "encounter" or "incident".

DaShark said...

I think calling everything an attack is just as unhelpful as calling everything an "encounter" or "incident".

Bingo - totally agree!
And that's why I find that attempt at political correctness, or whatever, so unbearably pathetic!

OfficetoOcean said...

Totally agree, as I always say, shark bites on humans are incidents which need to have all the details disseminated, they can't just be lumped together in one cover all phrase