Don’t Bite on Deadly Shark Stereotypes


Shark attacks are few and far between, but the Hollywood allure demonizes the sharks as violent and deadly (Courtesy of Spencer Gabor).

By Christopher Dimieri

Shark attacks are few and far between, but the Hollywood allure demonizes the sharks as violent and deadly. (Courtesy of Spencer Gabor)

On Sept. 15, a shark attack occurred off the coast of Cape Cod, leaving a family without a son.

This attack was the second at Cape Cod this summer, but the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts in more than 80 years, making it a catastrophic event for beach-goers and surfers throughout the northeast and the nation.

With a family in mourning and a coast filled with chaos, it is important to remember that we cannot associate this tragedy with misconceived anti-shark rhetoric.

Usually, when you ask a person who swims in the ocean what their biggest fear is, you will receive one of two answers. The first is probably drowning, the second is sharks. Sharks receive countless amounts of negative press and scrutiny.

In an interview with National Geographic, Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, “pretty much every shark bite is an accident.” Unfortunately, these animals are apex predators, and their “accidents” lead to deaths.

Media’s role in creating fear does not end with just news. Hollywood plays a major role, as the entertainment industry portrays sharks to be violent murderers with films dating back to 1975, including Spielberg’s legendary blockbuster Jaws.

This film depicts a killer great white that preyed on any unfortunate swimmer at the beach. Throughout the film, the shark mercilessly kills beach-goers, destroys boats and terrorizes locals, to the point where a massive hunt is called and the shark is killed.

The impact of the film’s success leaked into modern cinema, with new shark attack movies coming out every summer. These keep the image of sharks as vicious killers relevant, which is a false perception that I hope society can overcome.

It’s hard to write a story about a deadly shark attack and say that sharks aren’t actually bad, but statistically, the amount of shark attacks lead to fatalities is very low.
According to a 2014 report from ABC News, known shark attack fatalities are averaged to be five per year, which means cows kill more people each year than sharks.
That is not to say I would prefer to hang around sharks as opposed to cows, but it is something to take into account when the subject of anti-shark rhetoric arises in the media.

Respect for these magnificent creatures is something that is needed to guarantee a safe time in the water.

With modern technology, shark tracking and observation can be used as a tool to potentially stop incidents like the recent Cape Cod attack.

An Australian company named Smart Marine Systems (SMS) created a device called Clever Buoy, which essentially makes it possible to consistently monitor coastlines.

This technology would be extremely useful, as it would allow for a warning to be sent out when a shark is lurking in the vicinity of individuals in the water.
Besides the possible cost, there are no negatives to having this piece of technology. It is the government’s job to do what is best for the welfare of the people, and the last thing I believe any beach-head police force would want to deal with is a shark-induced fatality.

As an avid beach goer, I do not believe that shark attacks are not a factor that should make you avoid the ocean.

What happened to Arthur Medici at Cape Cod was a tragedy, but the rarity of events like this one is something that we all should take into consideration. We have to remember that the ocean is their home and we are just visitors.

Jaws is not hunting you; in fact, most shark attacks are accidents, as sharks mistake surfers as sea lions. If you see a dorsal fin in the water, do not go in. If you see a dorsal fin when you’re in, get out. Other than that, respect the oceans and remember that this is their home, and we are simply trespassing in their backyards.


Christopher DiMeri, FCRH ’20, is a communications major from Monroe, New York.