Sharks: humans still need to learn more about sharks and marine life | Photo: Dipp/Creative Commons

El Niño years have proven to be years with a higher number of shark attacks in various coastal communities across the planet.

Beaches that have jetties tend to have an increased number of sharks patrolling their waters.

Butcher factories that discard their bloody waste into local creeks, which feed into the ocean, are calling cards for attacks.

We know that swimming at dawn and dusk poses a bigger threat to swimmers and surfers.

We know that bull sharks can survive in freshwater.

Some shark scientists think younger great whites are more prone to attack beach-goers than older great whites.

We know that the salinity level of Matawan Creek during the 1916 attacks that killed Lester Stillwell and Stanley Fisher was much higher than normal, high enough that a great white could survive in the Matawan for some time anyway.

By now, people should know not to enter the water if seals or sea turtles are present.

Sharks have been known to ram people off their kayaks - now there are stories of orcas attacking boats and yachts.

Port and Starboard, the male orca pair with their flopped-over dorsal fins, have killed sharks large and small for the last several years, eating their livers while these sharks wash up on beaches, looking like torn-up chicken nuggets.

Our favorite predators from childhood have evolved, and we must evolve with them.

Shark cage diving: a growing industry that blends entertainment and marine life education | Photo: Cardinalli/Creative Commons

Mindset Evolution

But do people want to evolve? How do we go about evolving? I think people are under the impression that they have evolved.

Part of that impression stems from shark conservation efforts, like shark tagging, the shark diving industry, and the viral videos of free divers, like Ocean Ramsey, who swim with sharks.

All of these things help calm the sauce on the stove, so to speak.

As humans, the more of this we expose ourselves to, the more we feel as if we are closer to understanding sharks.

Knowledge is power, right? We feel that with education, we can be safe, or as safe as possible.

And yet, it appears that much of the population is still pretty mum about these predators.

Why are we still so shocked when a shark attacks a human?

When I was young, I frequently read those nonfiction books by Seymour Simon.

I would turn the scary pages fast so that all I could see were flashes of dark and white, but it still wouldn't keep me safe from having a shower.

I would close my eyes and still see the shark's eyes inches away from my face.

And I would see all of this, having barely even properly entered the ocean, primarily because of my fear of coming across "one of those things."

When I lived in Florida, I was told by my peers that sharks didn't come to Pensacola Beach.

Nobody had ever seen them, or so I was told.

One evening, many years ago, as I was talking to some fishermen about shark suckers, I looked below into the aquamarine, emerald water, and I saw a large shape, maybe eight feet or so.

The fisherman next to me saw me watching and went, "Yeah, that's a shark."

Even years after moving out of Florida, it seems like there is a burst of stories coming out of the Panhandle about sightings of whale sharks, mako sharks, and even some great whites.

So why do people make statements like this? Why do people say, "Oh, that doesn't happen over here?"

It's a similar attitude to someone saying, "This neighborhood is safe. We don't lock our doors."

I think people make statements negating concerns because it makes them feel better, and in making ourselves feel better, we risk turning a blind eye to real life.

Sharks: the ocean is not the humans' residence | Photo: Liemena/Creative Commons

Punishing Wildlife for Our Mistakes

It's great that we are learning about bycatch and the efforts of the Ocean Cleanup project.

It's wonderful that there are more great whites in Cape Cod now.

It's nice to know that stories about bull sharks on golf courses make people click on the story and read it.

If we have such a hunger for information, why do we not have an equal hunger for mitigating risks when we enter the wild?

Why are we the only species that punishes wildlife when we mess up?

Someone gets attacked by a shark, and the old-school method is to hunt down the shark, and that is considered perfectly acceptable.

The Moby Dick approach, like the "Let's Kill the Beast!" approach, is introduced to the minds of children at a young age through fairytales, which teach of happily ever after, instead of more appropriately teaching personal accountability.

Part of that lack of personal accountability is evident in religious teachings, many of which paint the followers to be admonished from sin and all responsibility.

As humans, we cannot simply pray our problems away. Prayer might make us feel better, but prayer is not a long-term solution.

The Ocean is Not Our Residence

The human race has a long way to go when it comes to ecological accountability.

With book bans, including book bans on environmental initiatives, where can the children of today go to get insight into these topics?

Parents can take kids to zoos, but then we are also reinforcing the dominance that mankind has over the captivity of animals, especially large animals.

While some parents are choosing to homeschool their children to protect them from the risk of "woke" teachings, others are homeschooling their children to make sure they get a solid education to ensure they know they can coexist in this ever-changing world.

I'll never forget my trip to a grocery store a few years back.

I was in the checkout line, and the cashier tried to convince me that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was fake news.

With information overload, it is difficult to sift through what is garbage and what is of substance.

We must be more vigilant.

From caring about household chemicals, lawn chemicals, and microplastics, we also need to care about our behavior when we enter the ocean.

While life began in the ocean, the ocean is not our permanent residence.

Just like we have admiration for the megalodon, a species that no longer exists and a species that still leaves calling cards on beaches around the world, we need to have a toolkit of admiration, education, and acceptance of the predators that do call the ocean their residence.

The oceans are continuing to get warmer, which means that more and more swimmers and surfers will be in the water.

Climate change is affecting all of us - even sharks, though scientists are still debating what those changes will look like.

While humans have an intimate relationship with technology, I urge people to become a bit more intimate with common sense.


Words by Anjali Ajmani | Copywriter

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