Shaaaark! Get out of the water, now!

by Dr. Erich Ritter
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Most of us, at least the people in my age bracket, remember the movie JAWS when it first flickered over the big screen. What a blast I had seeing this movie. What I did not realize back then was how moviegoers could believe in the existence of this movie creature. Granted, I knew that real white sharks existed and that incidents had occurred but c'mon, everybody saw that the monster was not real. But it did not seem to matter at all, people started to change their attitude towards white sharks in particular and sharks in general. What has been a wild animal with some scary features before turned into a monster with freakish features and down right mean character traits in the present. And it showed, no matter where you turned, sharks were the animal group to avoid, to kill on sight and be vilified from no one. Nobody seemed to care that there was a big difference between fiction and fact. And more importantly, there was absolutely no one who would have jumped in the water and show the white sharks are like any other shark: shy, cautious and the pure opposite of what the media wanted to make us believe. But, with all this bad press, where were the scientists to disprove the existence of "JAWS?" Well, the scientists back then were probably as scared as the general public. And it showed, I still remember when I got my hands on a copy of Baldridge's book “Shark Attack: A program of data reduction and analysis” Written by scientists and more importantly an analysis of the data gathered stemming from all the bites the team around Baldridge could gather. Finally, I hoped and rightfully assumed that here is a team of experts that could fight this devastating image of sharks by letting science take over. But, what a wake-up call I got. There was no "putting it into perspective," showing the animals how they really are" and most importantly I believed that they shine a light of the real incidents, their causes, outcomes and suggest recommendations of value and use. No, this bunch of scientists offered neither but instead helped to widen the gap between the true nature of sharks and the fictitious animals launched with the movie JAWS. Some quotes in this book were downright scary: 

How could these assumed experts of sharks be so far off? The answer is simple and rather sobering: none of them had spent time in the water with sharks. Would they have taken the time and actually observe these animals in their habitats, they would have quickly realized how far off base they were. But, since they did not enter the water, all that was left to judge sharks were their mostly theoretical opinion. And reading these quotes above reflects quite well how scared these experts were themselves. Knowing this, it did not come as a surprise that JAWS flourished since experts reflected the same opinion as the general public: JAWS turned fact, as the experts confirmed.

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