Tag Archives: South Africa

World Cup adventure highlights great Aussie fear

11 Jun

WORLD CUP ADVENTURE HIGHLIGHTS GREAT AUSSIE FEAR  Adrenalin seekers are flocking to South Africa’s famous Shark Alley during the World Cup to experience the frightening glare of a great white shark. Local scuba diving operators have reported that cage diving bookings have doubled for June, which allows adventurous individuals to get within inches of a shark’s toothy grin. But the sentiment regarding sharks in Australia is not as adventurous and most Australians remain very fearful of sharks and their habitats.

A simple, logical evaluation of the number of people that swim at Australian beaches versus the number of shark attacks per year suggests the likelihood of being attacked is remarkably low. In addition, most shark attacks are not fatal and there are many types of shark species that are proven to be non-threatening to human beings. So why do so many people fear and sometimes avoid Aussie waters?

The curator of the Australian Shark Attack File, John West, told the Sydney Morning Herald there was hysteria surrounding sharks when a reported great white shark attack at Sydney’s Northern Beaches turned out to be a minor incident involving a docile wobbegong shark in February.

“Whenever there is a shark attack, at first, it’s always a white pointer,” Mr West told the paper. “The fear of sharks is amazing.”

Original media reports of the attack were framed as “life-threatening” despite photographic evidence of a very minor bite mark on the victim’s leg. Similar reports have been generated across the country because reporters get excited to embellish shark incidents and transform them into dramatic sagas.

Did any journalists consider an original angle for the story? I would be more interested to read about the wobbegong’s distress from losing four teeth to the man’s leg. He was probably thinking, “When will these people learn to leave me alone?”

Whether intended or not, the media instills fear in Australians by promoting tormenting shark stories at every opportunity. What’s equally alarming is that fear of the actual ocean is increasing because attitudes are developing concerning other underwater species. For example, fear of sting rays was sparked by reports of the tragic death of Australian icon and adventurer Steve Irwin in 2006.

Author of Shark, David Owen, says present fears of sharks are still strongly related to the 1970’s Jaws phenomenon. Does a thirty five-year-old movie threaten the great Australian right to spend summer days at the beach? Or will Australian media recognise their role to play in reducing the effects for the future?

By Marissa Toohey

Article about shark diving at Forster in NSW, Australia, is coming soon!

%d bloggers like this: