Friday, July 2, 2010

Another Shark Scare - On the 35th Anniversary of Jaws

"Risk low of shark attacks in Northeast waters, but why take the chance, Coast Guard says."

So reads a headline in The Providence (R.I.) Journal.

It seems that great white sharks have been spotted off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, recently. This announcement has sent waves of panic across the state's beaches.

Tune in to CNN or Fox News or just about any station on Sirius XM satellite radio, look on the Google News or check out any of the major newspapers online and you'll see signs of shark hysteria. How appropriate that this is happening in 2010 - the year of the 35th anniversary of Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking shark film Jaws.

Jaws opened in theaters on June 20, 1975. I had just turned 7 and I saw the film at a drive-in theater with my father and brother. The film scared the bejesus out of me - much more so than The Exorcist or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I didn't go near the beach for the rest of the year - and I loved the beach.

Now, on the 35th anniversary of jaws, fears of sharks have been rekindled by the Great White Shark sightings off Cape Cod.

You want to know the kicker? Shark attacks are so rare in New England they are almost (but not quite) statistically nonexistent.

According to the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, there have been 7 fatal shark attacks in the Northeastern United States in 340 years. Two of those have been off the coast of Massachusetts, where Jaws is set, and the most recent of those two attacks was 1936! Five of those shark attacks occurred in New Jersey. Guess when the most recent attack in New Jersey occurred? 1926!!! (Source)

So the setting for Jaws hasn't actually seen a shark attack in 74 years. And that was only one of two in almost three and a half centuries.

The fear of sharks is yet another form of human hysteria. Sharks have far more to fear from humans than we have to fear from them.

If you get a chance, Blog Pals, please, please see the documentary Sharkwater. It's a Canadian documentary and it is absolutely outstanding. Please read my Blog Entry on Sharkwater here.

It is time to tear apart the myth of the monster sharks. The overwhelming majority of sharks are harmless to human beings. And humans have used the fear of sharks as a justification to slaughter countless numbers of these beautiful creatures.

That doesn't mean I necessarily want to go out and swim alongside a Great White Shark and sing "Kumbaya." It does mean that, once again, human beings have been behaving irrationally. And unless we want to keep destroying our ecosystem, we had damn well better stop.

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