Victoria shark sightings set off a media feeding frenzy

Recent headlines would have you believe that there's nothing but sharks off the coast of Victoria. But why are they there — and who should be scared of whom?


LAST UPDATED: 9 February 2017

We've all heard the statistics on the rare and weird ways one is more likely to die than through an incident with a shark — falling out of bed, anyone? In fact the vast majority of Australians will never see a shark at the beach, let alone come into contact with one. But facts aren't what scare us. Our perceptions do...

Shark balloon sneaks up on cat
We get it! Sharks can be scary.

But it has to be said, the media's hunger for a story plays a big role in this horror show. They'll take a bite at anything, and shark encounters are excellent bait. Remember when Mick Fanning was unharmed in an interaction with an apparently curious shark? Or is it more the "I BEAT JAWS" headlines that spring to mind?

Let's be clear: it's a tragedy when any person is injured or killed after encountering a wild animal like a shark. But the holiday road toll — even on the way to the beach itself — is no less shocking, and tragically, much more deadly.

Headline: Victoria is 'sharkier' but bites are rare

Overfishing & a changing climate = more sharks?

The unusually high number of recent shark sightings off Victoria has been attributed to warmer water and runoff of nutrients — like pesticides, fertiliser and sewerage — attracting hungry fish after intense storms (both believed to be exacerbated by climate change). Plus, overfishing is pushing global fish numbers to the brink of collapse, which could explain why Great White sharks and Bronze Whalers are following fish schools closer to shore. Seeing a pattern here?

Cruel & ineffective culls

Unfortunately, governments often resort to questionable methods to make swimmers feel safer, like cruel shark culls. But when we injure and kill sharks for being sharks, we hurt more than these incredible individuals. Drum lines, nets, huge baited hooks — they can affect crucial marine species like whales, dolphins and turtles along with sharks, many of whom are found to pose no risk to humans anyway. And for all this suffering, scientific evidence indicates these methods don't actually prevent shark bites.

We need to ask the question, will culling sharks actually reduce the risk of an attack? The answer is no.Ryan Kempster, shark biologist & Professor Shaun Collin, University of Western Australia.

Unexpected advocates are speaking out

It's often those people who spend most time closest to sharks who are the most vocal about their care and protection.

Mike Coots surfing
I'm not scared that it will happen again, as the odds are astronomical... Sharks are not to be feared, but are incredibly beautiful and an extremely important species for the health of our oceans.”Mike Coots, surfer who became a shark protection activist after losing his leg to a bite.

The reality is that the ocean is a shark's home. There are precautions we can take to reduce the chances of an encounter with a shark: avoid swimming at dawn or dusk, or in murky water; swim with other people rather than alone, and don't enter the water if you have a bleeding cut. Keen ocean-goers like surfers might even want to invest in a deterrent device.

As humans, we have the opportunity every day to be informed and to act with compassion and understanding. Because whether they're finned, scaled or in a wetsuit, all living beings in the ocean deserve it.

Help save our sharks

  • Join other caring people in speaking out against cruel and unscientific culling of sharks in Australia.
  • Eating animal-friendly foods is one of the most powerful things you can do to protect marine animals like sharks from overfishing — and reduce the impacts of global warming on people and animals alike:


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