Saturday, November 23, 2013

Swimming With the Shark Whisperer

The United States averages just 16 shark attacks each year and slightly less than one shark-attack fatality every two years. Meanwhile, in the coastal U.S. states alone, lightning strikes and kills more than 41 people each year.

Over 375 shark species have been identified, but only about a dozen are considered particularly dangerous. Three species are responsible for most human attacks: great white (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), and bull (Carcharhinus leucas) sharks.

Each year there are about 50 to 70 confirmed shark attacks and 5 to 15 shark-attack fatalities around the world. The numbers have risen over the past several decades but not because sharks are more aggressive: Humans have simply taken to coastal waters in increasing numbers.

While sharks kill fewer than 20 people a year, their own numbers suffer greatly at human hands. Between 20 and 100 million sharks die each year due to fishing activity, according to data from the Florida Museum of Natural History's International Shark Attack File. The organization estimates that some shark populations have plummeted 30 to 50 percent.
 I would be more worried about bees, the neighbor's dog, lighting, a ricocheted bullet or getting beaten to death with a shovel before I'd worry about being attacked by sharks. Of the 300 something species of shark, only about 14 have been known to attack humans. But, of course, you have to be in their part of the ocean to even have a remote chance of possibly triggering an attack response.

We also kill millions of times as many sharks for just their pectoral, dorsal and caudal fins than they kill of us. They are fierce, apex predators but they are also delicate and vulnerable to human hunting and interference with their environment. It is an environment we have polluted and caused to heat up. Their fate, like all aquatic animals, lies in our hands and depends on how we rectify global warming, ocean pollution and wholesale slaughter. 

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