Hey, have you heard? It’s all over the place – news, social media, people walking down the boardwalk thinking dolphins are something else…
It’s shark mania.
It doesn’t help that Shark Week and certain TV networks during the summer love to talk about these toothy critters. Then, heaven forbid, someone swimming at the beach gets “attacked” by a shark.
“News Alert”! “Breaking News”!
Holy fins, shark man, did you know there are sharks in the water? Well, of course, there are. It’s their home for goodness sake. But we gotta make one thing clear before we move on: the use of “attack” in news coverage shows just how little some media know about what they’re writing about.
Sharks don’t actively attack humans. They’re feeding and we’re getting in the way. Shoot, you’re safer in the water with sharks than you are trying to cross Atlantic Avenue.
According to my bosses at The Virginian-Pilot, I’m partially responsible for the media mayhem that ensues when a shark is seen near the beach. I was writing about sharks in the mid-Atlantic when I found ocearch.org – an organization that catches white sharks and tags them with satellite instruments that enable the group to keep a location on where the sharks surface.
In my research, I found the group and noticed that Mary Lee – their most famous shark with its own Twitter account – had surfaced at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. I wrote about it, hits and views blew up on the Pilot’s website, and my bosses told me I was the new shark reporter.
Within weeks, major news outlets started catching on. I was on Fox and CNN talking about sharks the year there were a few encounters that resulted in bites along the Outer Banks. Media frenzy – and I apologize for any of this – is back at it again.
Several people up north have been bitten. The Florida coast is thick with them, as seen on drone footage. And because there are sharks in our area during the summer – bull, spinners, hammerheads, black tips, sharp nose, sand, and other species are plentiful in the bay and along the coast this time of year.
Bull sharks, the ones humans around here need to worry the most about, are plentiful. The Outer Banks sounds are now a pupping ground for bulls and that activity likely has moved into the shallows of the lower bay. Bulls are aggressive and, when feeding in skinny water, don’t care what they’re chomping at.
The bottom line? We’re surrounded by water. Sharks live in these waters. They mean no harm, but they’re trying to get in a good mess of vittles just like the rest of us.
Commercial net spills, like the huge one committed recently by Omega Protein’s menhaden operations, help bring sharks closer to shore – as the chum-like mess of dead fish is nothing shy of chumming for sharks or other species.
Fear of sharks is a waste. An understanding that when we’re on or in their home, is a much better use of energy.
Be safe. Don’t swim at dusk or dawn, because this is when sharks will feed the most and often will follow bait into the shallows. Swimming at night just isn’t a good idea.
And whatever you choose to do, ignore the media frenzy. Life’s too short to not enjoy a refreshing dip in the ocean.
To follow some of my other work, go to: www.leetolliveroutdoors.com