There are moments in life that take your breath away… and those that scare the living day lights out of you. Selachophobia is the extreme fear of sharks. As soon as someone mentions ‘shark’, I bet a Jaws-inspired white shark uncontrollably devouring unsuspecting swimmers comes to mind…right? It’s no secret that Spielberg’s film had moviegoers paralysed by fear. Not to mention it ignited a massive moral panic (those top-notch shark graphics must have been terrifying, LOL).
Sharks in Movies- A Jaws Investigation
Even after 40 years, people still think of sharks as ‘stalking, killing machines’. Upon the film’s release in 1975, the movie grossed $7,061,513 in the first three days. Jaws showcased a shark’s predatory capabilities to the public through classical conditioning. Spielberg associated an innocent animal with frightening stimuli (terrifying music, blood and gore), causing the creature to now bring about fear and anger among audiences.
The ‘Jaws’ Effect
Christopher Neff (2015) says that the Jaws effect is based on the perception that human-shark interactions lead to fatal outcomes, and the belief that sharks must be killed to end the threat. As a result of the public panic surrounding shark attacks, the Queensland Government’s solution was to hug the coastal line with shark nets and drum lines.
“The use of shark nets and drum lines is a proven way of reducing shark attacks, however the public needs to understand and acknowledge that this works by killing sharks” – Professor Colin Buxton, University of Tasmania
The current fight for human protection against sharks is doing more harm than good. Sophie Farruggio’s article, Sharknetto, further examines the ineffectiveness of shark nets used to ‘protect’ humans and identifies more ethical ways to stay safe in the ocean!
Sharks in the News
The media remains committed to exploiting any shark incident to strike fear within the public. When it comes to the media and sharks, fear equals money. So why wouldn’t the media continue to use this fear to their advantage? All you have to do is type ‘shark attack’ into Google and thousands of news reports pop up. It’s not like you see trending news reports on snake or spider bites… because they aren’t the money making stories!
Fear is more powerful than reason. The brain seems to be wired to flinch first and ask questions second. Take a sneak peek at this news report:
Following a shark bite incident, the most common thing for the government to do is restore confidence in the minds of the public. As seen in the video, Sky News reinstates the use of good ol’ shark nets as a safety precaution. However, there is no mention of the 615 non-target marine animals that got tangled up in these nets- so much for a fair argument!
Know Your Facts!
Sharks are one of the most misunderstood creatures in the world. As visitors of the ocean, it is important that you do your research.
Shark attacks are generally motivated by fear and aggression when provoked and is totally unrelated to feeding. Sharks are provoked when a human attracts or initiates physical contact (accidentally or on purpose). You enter their territory at your own risk!
Out of the 510 species of shark, only 182 species have been found in Australian waters. In the case of an attack, people are generally bitten once, then spat back out. This generally means it was an accident. Sharks often mistake the identity of their prey- our oceans aren’t always crystal clear, so you can’t really blame them!
Despite intense media coverage, shark attacks are relatively infrequent. Only three people die from shark attacks per year in Australia. Check out the stats below.
While you stress about being eaten alive by a monstrous shark, you’re actually more likely to die from falling off a horse!
Sharks are Friends!
While sharks are often demonised by popular media, they are actually beautiful creatures that are vital to the health of the ocean. As apex predators, sharks are responsible for the upkeep of their ecosystems- removing the sick and weak, and balancing competition. While the media has instilled fear upon many Australians, sharks are definitely not as bad as what the media makes them out to be. So, don’t be afraid of sharks. Remember, you’re more likely to die from a horse than a shark attack- so go to the beach and enjoy your summer!