The video of professional surfer Mick Fanning and a shark has gone viral and the headlines are blazing with the words “shark attack”. On the live video Fanning’s initial response was that the shark panicked after getting caught up in his leash. He said, “I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth”. But the teeth never came. After a few seconds of fins and thrashing Fanning called to the support boat and was whisked out of the water. Fanning was not injured and although I am sure the experience was scary, it was not a shark attack.
I love this quote from great white shark researcher Alison Kock,
“I think that you do need to have precautions in place but at the end of the day you’re entering a wild space and you’re going to encounter the wildlife every now and again”
Each day so many of us are fortunate enough to spend time in or on the ocean; we swim, we dive, we kayak and most people never see a shark. I love sharks and have created a life that revolves around them, but I am always mindful of the fact they are wild animals and the ocean is their home, we are merely visitors.
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade commented on Monday’s episode of Fox & Friends,
“You would think that they would have a way of clearing the waters before a competition of this level, but I guess they don’t”
This is completely backwards thinking and shark culls have no scientific evidence of being effective for safer beaches. In 2013 more than 100 shark scientists signed an open letter to the government of Western Australia opposing the shark cull.
“Humans kill 100 million sharks each year”
The shark, presumed to be a great white, approached Fanning and then appears to have panicked and started thrashing once caught in his leash. Had this not have happened, the shark might have gone entirely unnoticed. Kock stated in an interview that you see the caudal (tail fin) splashing up above the surface, putting the shark at a downward angle, not at an upward angle towards Fanning.
On average 5 shark related fatalities happen each year and these numbers are negligible compared to the ever increasing number of people venturing into coastal waters. While fatalities are extremely sad, it is important to keep things in perspective; humans kill 100 million sharks each year.