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  • Writer's pictureMako

Hippos are cute and cuddly, sharks are bad and deadly. Think again!

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Hippos kill on average around 500 humans every year, sharks about 8 to 10 people. Unfortunately, the uninformed public perceives hippos as gregarious and social, apparently very friendly because they are, after all, grass-eaters. Sadly, on the contrary, many fear sharks, which are seen to be vicious, unpredictable, and extremely dangerous, with a single purpose in life – to eat humans.

It seems that perceptions have become the only accepted realities, while the real facts are merely interesting.

In fact, the odds of dying in a shark attack is 1 in 3.7 million.

Shark attacks are exceptionally rare in comparison to attacks on humans by other animals; however, they attract a disproportionate level of media interest, influencing people’s perceptions of their potential danger. Probably Peter Benchley and Steven Spielberg had no idea at the time what sort of hysteria they unleashed when they introduced Jaws to the world. Public opposition to killing sharks dwindled overnight. Since the release of Jaws in 1975, shark populations have fallen catastrophically. Today, over 30% of all shark and ray species are considered seriously endangered, amongst the most endangered creatures on the planet.

In 2000 Peter Benchley admitted that he regretted writing the story of Jaws, and became a strong advocate for ocean conservation.

Today, we kill anything between 65 and 270 million of sharks every single year via the commercial fishing industry, and the shark meat and fin trade. However, one is hard pressed to find in the global dailies a single article about the desperate need for shark conservation. On the other hand, a single shark attack on humans anywhere in the world will make instant headlines all around the globe.

Shark conservation and human coexistence with sharks hangs on the level of sensationalism in various media including social media. The use of emotive language to imply that sharks are monsters and killing machines with little or no scientific facts to back up such claims is extremely harmful and counterproductive to the significant efforts by scientific communities, environmentalists, conservationists, and indeed divers, to protect these magnificent, endangered animals.

That said, there is no doubt that mass media including, social media and the web, have an important role to play in shaping public perception of shark conservation. The media might be part of the problem, but without doubt it can also be a big part of the solution. Let’s get the information out there, correct the misperceptions, support the many initiatives working to protect these wonderful guardians of the oceans, and share the success stories.

Visit the Scubavox Marine Conservation Database to see who is doing what in this field, and you can become part of the solution.


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