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Interview with Discovery Channel Executive Paul Gasek

July 7, 2009

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the controversy surrounding this year’s “Shark Week”. Some shark conservationists believe that the Discovery Channel is promoting negative stereotypes about sharks at a time when we should be promoting conservation. Paul Gasek, Senior Science Editor and Executive Producer for the Discovery Channel, wanted to tell his side of the story, and agreed to be interviewed for Southern Fried Science. I let you, the readers of Southern Fried Science, suggest questions for my interview.

This interview has generated a great deal of buzz. Over a dozen science blogs directed readers to Southern Fried Science to submit questions, and I want to thank everyone who helped spread the word. Between e-mail, facebook, and direct blog submissions, I received well over 100 questions. It’s clear that lots of people care about this issue, and I think I speak for everyone when I tell you that we all appreciate Paul taking the time to answer our questions.

Because some questions were similar, and because some submitters are international and don’t speak English as a first language, I have rephrased and combined several questions. According to my agreement with Discovery, I have limited this interview to ten questions. Also according to my agreement with Discovery, I have not edited Paul’s responses in any way.

Whysharksmatter (WSM): How does one become the Discovery Channel’s Senior Science Editor? What is your background? How did you get into this line of work? What is your favorite thing about your job? Do you have any advice for others who are interested in this career path?

Paul Gasek (PG): I’ve spent 25 years making science and natural history-based programming for National Geographic, PBS, Animal Planet, TLC, Science Channel and now Discovery Channel.  Science is, collectively, the biggest non-fiction story on the planet and needs to be told.  I’m especially interested in the areas of climate, ocean ecology and sustainability.  I strive to tell these stories in a comprehensible, interesting and entertaining way.  It does no good to do science programming that no one watches.   So I work hard to find a balance.

DiscoveryChannel

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WSM: Do you believe that how movies, the news, and networks like the Discovery Channel portray sharks affects how the public views sharks? For example, in the scientific community, it is widely acknowledged that the movie Jaws has encouraged public fear of sharks. We can’t help but notice that a poster for this year’s Shark Week bears a strong resemblance to the movie poster for Jaws. Though your website has lots of conservation information, do you believe that some of your programming promotes fear of sharks?

PG: At Discovery Channel, we pride ourselves on telling compelling and accurate stories.  Shark Week is no different.  Two of our shows this year are based on actual historical events: one is about the first U.S.-based shark attacks on record, off the New Jersey shore in 1916, and the other is about the infamous summer of 2001 when more than 50 swimmers were attacked by sharks off U.S. beaches.  It is a fact that sharks sometimes mistake people for prey and attack.  In these, and many of our shows, we are digging deeper than the media headlines and telling the stories behind the stories.

sharkweekjaws

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WSM:  Are you and other Discovery Channel executives aware of the following facts?:

A)   Sharks kill less than ten humans a year

B)    Less than 1% of shark species have ever bitten a human

C)    Sharks play key roles in regulating ecosystems

D)   Losses of shark populations have resulted in collapses of economically important fisheries

E)    More than 100 million sharks a year are killed in one of the most wasteful, unsustainable, and brutal fishing practices on Earth…

F)    Resulting in dozens of species suffering 95% or higher population declines in the last thirty years?

Please see this blog post for sources (and elaborations) on all of these facts.

PG:  We are absolutely aware of the plight – and importance – of sharks.  And while we have millions of people watching our Shark Week programming (29 million people last year) and visiting our Shark Week website (one million people in July alone) we work hard to educate them about the importance of shark conservation.

Each year, Discovery Channel partners with Ocean Conservancy on a Public Service Announcement about the state of sharks which airs throughout Shark Week.  Here’s the script for this year’s PSA:

“Everyone hears about the rare incident of a shark mistaking a human for food – but the reality is we are taking sharks out of the ocean by the millions. Some shark species are down by 80%. Many face extinction. Sharks need your help to survive. Help Discovery and Ocean Conservancy protect sharks around the world — go to Discovery.com to learn more.””

We also dedicate a large portion of our website to shark conservation, using it as a tool to entertain and educate people.  Here are a few of my favorites:

a resource center for conservation organizations (http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/sharkweek/more/more.html)

a map showing the state of shark populations worldwide (http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/sharkweek/map/map.html)

and a Sharkrunners game that uses real data from scientists around the world to track sharks and learn more about them (http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/sharkweek/shark-runners/shark-runners.html)

Discovery's partner for a public service announcement about sharks

The Discovery Channel's partner for a public service announcement about sharks

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WSM: Professional wildlife photographers almost always acknowledge when they have manipulated a shot rather than photographing a natural behavior. However, many of the behaviors shown on Discovery Channel Shows are obviously manipulated, either through chumming, artificially encouraging “feeding frenzies”, or, in one case, stuffing dead fish into a dummy to simulate a shark attack. Why do you use shots that aren’t natural behaviors at all, and when you do use them, why do you not stress more that the behaviors were manipulated by the photographer in order to get a more dramatic shot?

PG: As you know, sharks can be camera shy and/or less abundant.  Consistent with tourist dive operations, we often have to chum to bring them in.  After all, what’s a shark show without sharks?  You’ll notice in this year’s shows we point out when bait is used so viewers can see how sharks behave in these situations.

On one particular shoot this year, we didn’t have to bait at all!  We filmed sandtigers off the coast of North Carolina for the SHARK AFTER DARK show.  While we had permission to chum in this area to show feeding behavior, we chose not to as it is one of the few places in the U.S. you can reliably see sharks without baiting.  We definitely made the right decision – what a privilege to film in this special location where the food was abundant and so were the sharks.

A mako chewing on a chum crate. Image from riverandreef.com

A mako chewing on a chum crate. Image from riverandreef.com

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WSM: This controversy surrounding shark week isn’t new. A group of shark conservationists last year met with you and other Discovery Channel executives for over four hours. At this meeting, these conservationists say that you agreed to try and change the tone of shark week (which clearly hasn’t happened, this year’s schedule features shows like “Deadly Waters” and “Sharkbite Summer”). They also say that you asked them to submit ideas, they sent lots of ideas, and that you never responded to them. What do you have to say about these complaints?

PG: In 30 years of work in television, I’ve heard a lot of pitches.  So you can imagine how many come into the network.  I asked our development team about this and here is what they said:

“Discovery Channel receives over 300 program ideas per week.  We take a great deal of time vetting each idea based on editorial fit, financial feasibility, and programming need.  Unfortunately, the scarcity of available slots means that most of these programming ideas we see never hit air.  Of this pool of 300 pitches, only one or two are greenlit.”

For all of Shark Week this year, there are six premieres – a few of which have been in production for more than a year.

I also want to address the objection to some of the Shark Week program titles.  These titles are designed to be attention-getting and bring people to the network.  We have to get people to watch the shows in order to educate and entertain them.  I’ve never known a title to make someone afraid of sharks – but I have known a title to get someone to watch a show about them.

SharkWeekLogo

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WSM: With reference to health care reform, President Obama recently said “To those who simply criticize without offering new ideas of their own, I have to ask, what’s your answer?” I agree, and I try to only criticize when I can offer an alternative. My readers have suggested dozens of other types of documentaries than those that focus on sharks attacking people. One notes that since sharks are such well adapted hunters, that simply watching them hunt for seals or fish should offer plenty of thrills to DC’s viewers. Several suggested showing movies about the shark fin fishery, or how sharks are crucial to marine ecosystems. One suggested a movie about some of the world’s weirdest sharks (many deepwater animals are crazy looking), another suggestion was to follow a shark-killing tournament while interspersing conservation facts, another involves shark tanks in aquariums around the world. Others suggest a show about animals in the ocean deadlier than sharks, such as venomous animals. I saw two great conservation-minded documentaries at the BLUE Ocean Film Festival: “Requiem”, a woman’s quest to swim with the world’s most dangerous sharks to learn if they really are dangerous (interspersed with conservation facts throughout), and “Shark Nicole/Great White Shark Odyssey”, which chronicled the life of an individual shark and the threats she faced as she migrated across the oceans. There are many more suggestions as well. What do you think about these ideas?

PG:People interact with Discovery in many ways – our news service, our website and, of course, our on-air programming.  We offer a variety of information and resources on all of these outlets, from the latest in shark research to online games using real shark data.

Regarding on-air programming, as I said, we get hundreds of pitches for every one that makes it to air.  And those are from production companies with all the resources and filmmaking expertise already in place.  We get hundreds more from viewers with their own ideas about what they want to see on our network.  And we welcome this.  The more ideas we get, the more we have to choose from, ensuring the very best ones make it to air.

What research tells us about Shark Week is it’s the interaction between sharks and people that attract viewers.  So we try to find a variety of ways to do this.  For example, in our new show ‘Shark After Dark’ (for which I served I was executive producer), shark experts got into the water with various sharks – at night – to learn more about shark behavior in the dark.  It’s action packed and a bit scary at times.  But the team came back with great information and an amazing show.  It’s this energy, action and adventure that bring people to Discovery Channel and to Shark Week.  And while they often come to Discovery for the excitement, they stay for the information.

A rare deep sea frilled shark, which some Southern Fried Science readers think would be an interesting topic for a documentary

A rare deep sea frilled shark, which some Southern Fried Science readers think would be an interesting topic for a documentary

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WSM: The Discovery Channel has recently dealt with other series, most notably, Man vs. Wild, portraying false depictions of man surviving in the wilderness, when he is actually surviving a hotel room.  With this scandal and Shark Week’s sensationalistic, inaccurate, and environmentally harmful depictions of sharks, do you still consider the Discovery Channel’s goal to educate viewers with documentaries about the natural world, or do you consider yourselves to be a network that entertains with fiction?

PG: We are constantly raising the standards of our programming and pride ourselves on the fact that Discovery Communications is the number one nonfiction media company in the world.  To say we strive for anything less than that would be completely inaccurate.

It is important to correct statements where inaccurate.  To clarify, the Man vs. Wild incident was two years ago and the show was immediately changed to be transparent.

As I said, Discovery Channel makes every effort to create compelling and accurate shows.  To help with Shark Week, we enlisted marine biologist Andy Dehart – who has extensive shark experience – to help us ensure the accuracy of our shark shows.

Hotel or no, Bear Grylls is a hardcore individual. Here he is eating a recently killed zebra.

Hotel or no, Bear Grylls is a hardcore individual. Here he is eating a recently killed zebra.

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WSM: There are many smart, dedicated people in the shark conservation community. How can we help you and the Discovery Channel to portray sharks in a more accurate and conservation-friendly light? As a scientist and conservationist, I am happy to volunteer my services as a consultant for whatever you need, and I know I’m not alone. What can we do to help?

PG: I can’t think of another science-based group more passionate about their work than shark scientists and conservationists.  And we appreciate that commitment.  We have tapped into the expertise of several shark experts on this year’s Shark Week programming and online content including Andy Dehart of the National Aquarium, Sonja Fordham of the Ocean Conservancy, International Shark Attack File Curator George Burgess, legendary shark filmmaker Jeff Kurr and marine biologist and Neptunic Sharksuit inventor Jeremiah Sullivan to name just a few.  These are all devoted “sharkies” and we value their guidance as we continue to make Shark Week better and better each year.

One of the Discovery Channel's advisors helped create this amazing product

One of the Discovery Channel's advisors helped create this amazing product

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WSM: Animal Planet, a Discovery Channel affiliate, has a successful show called Whale Wars that documents the actions of the activist group “Sea Shepherd”. Many conservationists and scientists believe that Sea Shepherd does much more harm to the environmental movement than good. By endangering the lives of whalers and shark finners, Sea Shepherd makes those people look like the victims. Their actions also make the general public associate caring about whales and sharks with being a fanatical zealot, making it harder for legitimate conservation groups to win public support. What do you think about this? Please see this blog post for more information.

PG:  There are so many ways to tell a conservation story.  I can’t answer for Animal Planet’s ‘Whale Wars’ but I asked the executive producer Jason Carey to weigh in on this one.  And here he does…

“Animal Planet’s seven-part series WHALE WARS broke new ground in wildlife filmmaking. In this first ever “conservation adventure series,” we tackled one of the most contentious stories in the wildlife world today. Both the Japanese and Sea Shepherds claim to have the law on their side and this built-in rivalry led to some of the most dramatic filmmaking ever captured in wildlife-related work. By taking an in-depth view into these characters who have committed their lives to saving whales, Animal Planet presented a fascinating view of animal conservation in the modern world. And by following the story of whale survival through this human lens, we were able to tell a story filled with an emotional depth that rarely comes across in wildlife filmmaking. Viewers have many different angles to approach the series, and I am confident that they are discerning enough to both enjoy the series as entertaining television and see the magnitude of the issues WHALE WARS portrays.

In fact, ‘Whale Wars’ has brought the issue of whaling back into the public debate.  While people may not agree with Sea Shepherd’s methods, ‘Whale Wars’ provides a platform for healthy dialogue about a very serious issue and lets viewers have a chance to see and decide for themselves.

What is happening to our oceans and its creatures is a big area of concern for our audience.  However, it’s important to note that this is not so much a journalistic enterprise or endeavor about the complex issues surrounding whaling as it is a character study on the members of an organization. The series shines a spotlight on what motivates these individuals to get involved in this issue and the lengths they’ll go through to take a stand in what they believe in.  The Sea Shepherd’s activities are damned by some and heralded by others.”

whale_wars_dvd

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WSM: During your career, you have likely heard many pitches for shows that never made it on the air. Can you tell us about some of them? What show would you most have liked to see go on the air, and why didn’t it make it?

PG: I spent most of my career as an independent producer, creating pitches of my own.  A LOT of them.  One of mine that did make it to air was a 1995 Discovery special called Eyes in the Sky about our new ability to remotely observe the Earth and compress time to see change, like the disappearance of the Amazon rain forest.

I’d like to tell you about the one show I’m working to get on the air, but I don’t want to give it away just yet.

Amazon deforestation, one of the features of "Eyes in the Sky". Image from Earthblog

Amazon deforestation, one of the features of "Eyes in the Sky". Image from Earthblog

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I really want to thank Paul and all the other Discovery Channel executives who took the time to answer my questions.

I said earlier that I would refrain from signing this petition denouncing the Discovery Channel until I heard their side of the story. After speaking with them and reading what they have to say, I am announcing that I am not signing this petition. As always, you are free to do what you want.

~WhySharksMatter


107 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2009 4:52 pm

    deep water animals think YOU’RE crazy looking.

    Great job David, and thank you Paul Gasek!

  2. hart444 permalink
    July 7, 2009 5:32 pm

    I beg your pardon, but Sea Shepherd most certainly IS a legitimate conservation agency, and a far more effective one than those lazy hippies in Greenpeace.

  3. Robert permalink
    July 7, 2009 6:13 pm

    Hart444, to claim they’re effective one must list their accomplishments. As far as I’m aware Japan’s whaling industry and the shark finning fisheries are alive and well, steaming on with their business. Aside from ramming ships and threatening crew, what has Sea Sheppard done?

    I ask this not in hostility, but in curiosity.

    • July 7, 2009 6:39 pm

      Folks, we’ve done the Sea Shepherd debate ad nauseum. Please read these two posts and the comments. Comments that just parrot previous comments will be removed.

      Sea Shepherd: Friend or foe of shark conservation

      Guestpost: In defense of Sea Shepherd by Craig Nazor

  4. hart444 permalink
    July 7, 2009 8:05 pm

    SSCS has saved hundreds of lives, and prevented the Japanese poachers from turning a profit the last three years in a row. While I agree that much of Discovery Channel/Animal Planet shows seem to want to scare their audiences to death of wildlife, the series Whale Wars has brought the debate about killing whales back to the public, which is the most important thing here. While I was familiar with the Japanese dolphin slaughters, I was previously unaware of the thousands of Minke whales they were killing in the antarctic Australian marine sactuary. Though I definitely agree with the scientists’ concerns that Discovery needs start doing as good of a job at incorporating education into their programs as they are at entertainment.

    • July 7, 2009 8:20 pm

      Please see my above comment. We’ve done the Sea Shepherd debate ad nauseum. Check the previous Sea Shepherd post comments and ask yourself if you’re adding anything new or just towing a line.

  5. whysharksmatter permalink*
    July 7, 2009 8:24 pm

    To add to what Andrew is saying re: Sea Shepherd, not only have we done the Sea Shepherd debate over and over, but we have done so on posts ABOUT Sea Shepherd. This is NOT a post about Sea Shepherd. This is a post about an interview with an important Discovery Channel executive and a surrounding shark conservation controversy. Please keep comments related to this subject, please.

  6. hart444 permalink
    July 7, 2009 8:32 pm

    Yeah, that’s great you guys don’t want to talk about Sea Shepherd, but I can talk about them all I want because they were discussed in the interview as part of the programming that Discovery does. If you didn’t want them talked about, you shoulda left out that question, huh?

    • July 7, 2009 8:55 pm

      It’s not that we don’t want to talk about them, it’s that we want you to GO READ THE OLD POSTS FIRST, including the comments. We don’t need another 30 comments all saying essentially “I like Sea Shepherd, you guys are mean”. Try adding something to the debate instead of just parroting the same tired lines.

  7. hart444 permalink
    July 7, 2009 9:00 pm

    Uh, I did. Are you not paying attention today? Go back and read my comments on Discovery channels education vs. entertainment.

  8. July 7, 2009 10:54 pm

    Thanks for doing this David…Paul’s answers were pretty disappointing…seems like nothing will change at the network.

  9. July 7, 2009 10:56 pm

    When it comes to television, people want to be entertained and networks want to entertain. By portraying sharks as menacing eating machines hungry for human flesh, thats entertaining to people. Its the same reason that people flock to the movie theatres for the next lame scary movie. We like to be scared. It may be “accurate”, but its the commercials, camera angles, music, tone of the commentary that bring across fear and misconception to the audience. Its the nature of media, bend the truth a little and sell it better, or give the stone cold boring truth.

    BTW, online petitions are an absolute waste of time. Not that I was going to sign it anyway. But, if you really want to get anything done, handwritten letters are so much more effective…believe it or not.

    • July 7, 2009 11:17 pm

      I feel really sad for people who think that just because something is factual then its ipso facto “stone cold boring”.

      You don’t have to make a documentary into a craptastic stereotypical fear-mongering piece of eye-candy to make it fascinating.

      Anyone seen “Planet Earth”?

      Now the BBC – that’s a network that knows how to make documentaries.

      • July 8, 2009 7:50 am

        That’s because BBC is AWESOME! Even when U.S. news outlets were pandering to the fear factor with sensationalistic headlines last week (regarding a study on great white shark’s hunting techniques), BBC was one of the only news outlets I found that didn’t do that.

      • July 8, 2009 9:39 am

        Of course Blue Planet and Blue Earth aren’t boring. They’re both great. If you get some crazy expensive underwater HD cameras and Sir David Attenborough, its going to rake in the viewers. Like I said, its not about the facts, its about the production value. It’s TV, not the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

      • July 8, 2009 9:48 am

        No one is claiming Shark Week should be the “Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.”

        Quite the opposite.

        What everyone is saying is that you can make a million different varieties of insanely fascinating shark programs that aren’t about them being evil killing machines.

      • July 8, 2009 9:57 am

        I totally agree with not portraying them as evil killing machines, and I would be highly entertained by shark program that didn’t. What I’m saying is…that’s what the masses want. And that’s what shark week has become. It’s profitable.

    • July 8, 2009 5:14 am

      Mythbusters is a perfect example of how a show can focus on finding the truth without being stone cold boring. Blue Planet and Planet Earth are even better.

      As I often tell my writer/entertainment industry friends, you show me any fictional creature you want and I’ll find you something real that’s 100 times weirder.

      • July 8, 2009 9:51 am

        I would say that Mythbusters is hit and miss when it comes to finding the truth. I think we’d all agree that they’re not doing true blue empirical science. They do blow up alot of stuff though…which is definitely not boring.

      • July 9, 2009 1:36 pm

        This sums up my feelings on Mythbusters perfectly.

        Unscientific

        Yeah, they’re not 100% empirical, but they teach people that ideas are tested by experimentation, and they educate while entertaining.

      • July 9, 2009 4:35 pm

        I love the mustaches.

  10. July 7, 2009 11:13 pm

    I certainly appreciate Paul taking the time to answer your questions, David – and I’m impressed that you were able to arrange it.

    I have mixed feelings on his responses. Mostly I’m unimpressed.

    I think the whole “we have to make sensationalist titles to get viewers” spiel is crap. There is probably a grain of truth to it – but Discovery Channel is simply feeding into to that viewer mentality that leads to “needing” sensationalism.

    The argument on “Whale Wars” was “we trust the intelligence of our viewers, to allow them to discern who is right.” Yet by picking brainless sensational titles, they are doing the exact opposite.

    And that is really the crux of the answers above. Saying with one hand “oh we’re all about conservation. See we’re doing this and this, etc,” while with the other hand they still scream “fear, fear, fear.”

    I also thought his bit on “we pick shows that show human shark interaction, because that’s what sells,” pretty deplorable as well. Then again, we all know they’re in the business of making money. Regardless, sharks and humans are not “meant” to interact in any way shape or form, so using that as your central theme is a bit disgusting to me – speaking as a scientist who enjoys real nature documentaries.

    But it’s all a bit moot to me, as I think the Discovery Channel bankrupted the “Discovery” in their title years ago.

    Just my opinion.

    • July 8, 2009 8:02 am

      I’m going to have to agree wholeheartedly with Daniel. There is a HUUUGE divide between the conservation-oriented Discovery Channel website, and it’s television programming. Yes, choosing sensationalistic headlines may reel people in, but for those who don’t take the time to watch, it also sends a message.

      Paul Gasek said, “What research tells us about Shark Week is it’s the interaction between sharks and people that attract viewers.” Well, of course the average person is going to be all about action, and shows that support the vilification of sharks. The majority of people are afraid of sharks, and don’t know the truth about sharks, or how bad their plight is. So when research tells Discovery Channel that people want human-wildlife conflict featured in Shark Week, of course is the majority choosing that…..the ignorant majority. I don’t think that the majority should be the deciding factor for programming in that case, but rather from consultations with educated, passionate scientists such as David.

  11. July 7, 2009 11:43 pm

    I think the first four shows of Shark Week should be kept in mind when reading Paul’s answers:

    The 2 hour premier “Blood in the Water,” followed by “Deadly Waters,” followed by “Day of the Shark 2” (about “when a great white breaks through a 300-pound aluminum shark cage and traps the divers inside. Another shark tackles a former Navy Seal in shallow waters”), followed by “Sharkbite Summer” (about “The bite-by-bite account of America’s notorious “Summer of the Shark” in 2001.”)

  12. July 8, 2009 1:20 am

    Unfortunately we predicted the same canned answers the discovery exec recited. Really, what else could he really say? He eluded to it many times throughout the interview, ratings, viewers, advertising dollars. Shark Week will continue to be what it has always been. Fortunately there is a movement out there that continues to dispel the fiction from the fact.

  13. Capt Keep permalink
    July 8, 2009 2:43 am

    Well guys i completely agree with Irradius and Oceanic Defense.
    As suspected the asnwers are all really evasive and Mr Paul with the ability of a fencer dodge the real core of most of the critical point.
    Again discovery channel as well as most of the other, proved to be first interested in money and then in science and conservation but frankly i’m not blaming that cause they are a network and if they want to survive and make money they have to get people attention and feed them with what they want: monsters and sensationalism. I’m sorry guys but this is what people seek at least the great majority of it. Just have a look at the news is exactly the same.
    BTW Thanks again to David & co. for their effort and for as useless as it can be i signed the petition and keep encouraging people around me to avoid watching such programs but, if interestd, look for other sources of informations about sharks.
    Cheers guys!!!!!

  14. hart444 permalink
    July 8, 2009 3:55 am

    I don ‘t think the sensationalism of Discovery’s ‘Shark Week’ is at all what is putting them in peril. Do you really think that the hundreds of millions of sharks that are finned each year are mutilated and left to bleed/drown to death are treated this way because of shows on Discovery Channel?

    • July 8, 2009 5:08 am

      You don’t think attitudes and behaviors like this (from the Good news for sharks in Florida post) are influenced by the media’s constant vilification of sharks?

      “I was in that tournament and let me tell you all the sharks that were [caught] were killed, every one, I myself love to kill sharks I do it almost every weekend, everyone should do there part and kill as many as you can to make our beaches safe for our children…”

      • hart444 permalink
        July 8, 2009 5:36 am

        Dumbass Floridians probably kill a few thousand sharks, and yeah, they probably watch too much television. But China/Japan are killing hundreds of millions. While sensational, Discovery/Animal Planet DO preface most of their programming with disclaimers of how rare shark attacks on humans are, and always stress the common victim’s POV that sharks are only doing what they do naturally and should be protected. And almost all bite victims refuse to let fear prevent them from avoiding the Ocean, something that Discovery/AnimalP seem to always make the final point of each program. That said, showing sharks naturally without being baited should be a priority for corporate media. Simply enticing a feeding frenzy probably looks great on camera, but does little to educate the natural feeding habits of sharks. Critter cams are all the rage, why can’t they fit one on a Tiger Shark?

      • July 8, 2009 6:27 am

        I’m very confused here. You say that bringing debate to the public forum is the most important thing, yet you don’t think that raising awareness for shark conservation issues matters to shark conservation?

        The vilification of sharks means that people won’t give a damn about conserving them, thus there will be no pressure on Japan/China (not to mention the hundreds of other countries that still fin, and yes, the Florida fisheries kill way more the “a couple thousand sharks a year”) to protect sharks. You seem to think this problem is as simple as ‘ some people kill sharks, they should stop’. It’s much more complex.

      • Claire permalink
        August 3, 2009 1:47 am

        They did fit a CritterCam on a Tiger Shark. It’s in a National Geographic documentary, although I’ve forgotten the exact name. Go educate yourself.

  15. July 8, 2009 8:08 am

    Does anyone know anything about the shark experts Paul Gasek mentioned?

    I wonder if these experts knew the titles of the programs while they are helping out? If I was to be sought out as a shark expert by Discovery Channel, and I knew the titles of the programs, I’m not sure I would help them out. I wouldn’t want to be associated with a program that promotes fear. I simply wouldn’t want to be a part of that.

    Perhaps if more shark experts boycott Shark Week and refuse to be a part of this circus, then maybe Discovery Channel would have to rethink their programming. People would start to notice if suddenly there were no experts involved in Shark Week.

  16. Robert permalink
    July 8, 2009 1:16 pm

    First off I apologize for jumping into well covered territory without knowing what had gone on before with Sea Sheppard.

    Now, as far as the interview was concerned it was pretty obvious Paul was being evasive with his answers. The one that stands out noticeably is the question about stuffing a dummy with fish. While the question was more involved his defense was that they needed sharks to film, then mentioned how they had one program where they didn’t need to do it. Hmm, really.

    I don’t really blame him for his answers. There’s not much else he could do.

    As far as their experts? They could honestly be experts in the field. It’s not unusual for a production company to hire experts to mine for neat sounding ideas and then … well, that’s about it. Star Trek (while being fictional) had their own science advisers who were paid to only provide futuristic sounding words for dialog and not to check the accuracy of anything.

    Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a fan of Shark Week. I loved Discovery when I was growing up and the channel was one of the biggest push to getting into marine biology in general. Sadly, their standards have been slipping, and Shark Week was always pretty sensational.

    Now, if they went for a bait-and-switch technique of using attention-grabbing titles and then talked about what sharks were really like …

    Ah, well.

  17. lupo permalink
    July 8, 2009 3:16 pm

    Paul is an idiot and a liar. Plain and simple. Most of his answers and sharkweek show are factually incorrect.
    He is too dumb to recognize the error of his/DC’s ways and he dumps any potential blame on his development team

    Boycott all Discovery Channel’s shows and stores.

    • whysharksmatter permalink*
      July 8, 2009 3:19 pm

      I intentionally haven’t been participating much in the comments of this post, but I feel the need to comment now.

      Lupo, calling someone an idiot and a liar because you disagree with them is immature, inappropriate, and counterproductive to the cause.

      Despite being a very busy and important man, he took the time to address concerns that we had over the Discovery Channel’s programming. You may not be satisfied with his responses, but that is no reason to be insulting.

  18. July 8, 2009 10:23 pm

    Gasek’s answers were similar to the ones he gave our reps when they met with him, but even more evasive. The point of the Manifesto is that his company is making a great deal of money by victimizing sharks, through cultivating hatred and fear of them, when they are on the verge of extinction. He didn’t address that point. At our meeting, he said Shark Week just couldn’t go on without the blood and teeth factor, whether sharks were facing extinction or not, and mentioned that his background included ten years as a commercial fisherman. We have still not been told his scientific background. When we met with him, he thought that throwing turkeys to tiger sharks was science. Its natural he would use this oportunity to tell everyone how good Shark Week is but at our meeting he laughingly referred to what they do as SHARK PORN, and often emphasized how proud his is of it. It was clear, and clear to me from seeing what Discovery did to the shark science I offered them, that they care about sharks uniquely in terms of how much money they can make from them.

    From a recent article against trying to save sharks from extinction by Justin Clarke:

    “Sharks scare the hell out of me. I’ve watched enough Discovery Channel to know that sharks are pure killing machines…”

  19. July 9, 2009 6:35 am

    David

    look at http://dsc.discovery.com/sharks/programs/2009-program-schedule.html
    – are humans a novel feeding opportunity for “Sharks”?
    – have Great Whites killed thousands of people?
    – are “Sharks” most “aggressive” at night?

    check out http://animal.discovery.com/fish/river-monsters/bull-shark/
    – are Bull Sharks bad to the bone?
    – are Sharks creatures with an insatiable hunger for brutal violence?

    That’s what the petition is about, the demonizing of a group of endangered animals. I see that you study Shark Conservation: is reducing Sharks to mere teeth and attacks helping your cause?
    Can you imagine the backlash if anybody tried to do that to the terrestrial apex predators?
    That’s not only unconscionable, it’s evil.

    You’re been deftly bamboozled by a seasoned media pro.
    Yes, it’s great when an “important” executive deigns to talk to a lowly student – but in the softest possible way, you must now snap out of your adulation and re-activate your analytical faculties.

    • whysharksmatter permalink*
      July 9, 2009 12:22 pm

      Please do not assume that because I don’t agree with you, I have been “bamboozled” or consider myself “lowly”.

      Please do not assume that because I am not signing your petition, I agree with 100% of what the Discovery Channel Executives are saying, or that I disagree with 100% of the wording in your petition.

      My views, like the situation as a whole, are far more complex than you seem to believe.

    • July 9, 2009 1:32 pm

      Wow, it’s almost as if you’ve never read anything David’s written, including the above post. My bet is that my co-blogger’s writing has done more to further the goals of your petition, than, well, your petition. Please promptly remove your head from your hindquarters.

      • lupo permalink
        July 9, 2009 4:27 pm

        Southern Fried Scientist,

        You may not be satisfied with Dasharks response, but that is no reason to be insulting.

        Maybe you should look at Dashark’s credentials. As a scientist(?) maybe then you should listen to his experience.
        He has done more to promote and save sharks than you or Paul Gasek.

      • July 9, 2009 4:41 pm

        Dashark’s credentials are impressive, his above comment is as ham-handed, trite, and insubstantial as most of Gasek’s responses, and significantly more whiny.

        Be wary of argumentum ad verecundiam, authority alone does not grant absolute determination of truth.

      • July 10, 2009 1:04 pm

        Guys – as co-authors of the blog try to mediate a little – what started as a good post turned to a cat fight…not just this dialogue, but the one above (Sea Shepard) as well.

      • July 10, 2009 3:30 pm

        We take pride in never censoring our commenters, allowing all sides of an issue to be voiced, and even elevating dissenting views to the level of a guest post. We will never remove or alter comments just because we disagree with the content or the tone. While we may request commenters change their tone when things get vehement, we will never require it.

        This is the internet after all, and things aren’t always completely civil, and it’s not hard to recognize where certain discussion will end up without intervention – hence our hardline stance at the sea shepherd comments (from both pro- and anti- commenters).

        The beauty of these discussions is that there’s no way for your voice to be muted or your opinions shouted down, unless someone deletes your comment. Otherwise the text will always stand for readers to consider or not.

        Which I guess is a long winded way of saying ‘no’. You voice your opinions, we voice ours. You think somethings stupid, go ahead and say so, but don’t be surprised when others disagree.

      • July 10, 2009 6:00 pm

        I did not talk about censorship – I just mentioned mediation…

      • July 10, 2009 6:31 pm

        I prefer to let these things evolve as they will, with minimal restraint. For example, now as a complete aside we’ve raised a very interesting question of what tone do we set when having an online open discussion, and how do you respond to comments that are either intentionally or unintentionally inflammatory?

        For me, the intentional ones I usually ignore as trolling. Choosing not to engage is the easiest way to stop a conversation cold, and should only be reserved for the most outrageous stuff. Still though, never censorship.

        The unintentional ones are trickier. When a commenter attacks a member of this blog without warrant, no matter who they are, expect a swift and unrestrained response. I tolerate quite a bit of ribaldry, but the above comment’s about Dave’s interpretation of the interview crossed a line. Sometimes I can see derails coming fast, like with the Sea Shepherd comments, and try to move them to the appropriate venue. Covering ground we’ve already covered is tedious, and things move forward better when all parties are brought up to the same page.

        The comment that we should mediate is a strawman, because obviously we are mediating, just not in the same way you would. So how would you mediate these events?

        Please, anyone interested, comment on the open thread here.

  20. lupo permalink
    July 9, 2009 4:34 pm

    David,

    I take back that last sentence. You do your part to promote and save sharks. I am happy that you do and hope that you keep up the good fight.
    I cannot respect Paul Gasek as he has proven to ignore real science in order to keep his ratings, which probably be around the same if he adopted our recommendations. And again, he is lying and has lied about Sharkweek and about sharks. You can’t deny that.

  21. July 10, 2009 12:58 am

    Pax vobiscum guys (:
    We may be bickering but we’re on the same side!

    Now if we can progress beyond the ruffled feathers and point scoring.

    It’s not “my” petition by any stretch of the imagination.
    I agree that it’s likely to be largely ineffective and I cringe at some of the opinions of the signatories. Yet, I signed it and I promote it out of solidarity and because it has sort of become a rallying point for people who love Sharks.
    Like Conservation in general, Shark Conservation is highly fragmented resulting in deplorable duplication (how many petitions are there to stop Shark finning?), inefficiency and squandering of resources and I saw this as a chance to close ranks and show some solidarity across the ideological and personal divides. I was obviously mistaken.
    See http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2009/06/not-good-enough.html.

    David, yes, agree, Conservation is complex.
    I’m also a big proponent of pragmatic, negotiated compromise solutions.

    Shark media however is not – it’s pretty much black or white.

    When I was a student, it was perfectly acceptable to go big game hunting (for Rhino, Lions, Gorillas, Elephants – you name it) and to wear Leopard and Tiger coats. All large mammalian predators, be it Cats, Wolves, Bears or Orcas were depicted as man-hunting vermin that needed to be eradicated.
    What changed that were a series of epic documentaries about the African and Asian wildlife and the work of some scientists, like Jane Goodall who pretty much single-handedly “de-mosterfied” the Gorilla. Yes, some orgs like the WWF played a huge role as well.

    Nowadays, most large predators are being perceived and depicted as what they are: certainly dangerous but also fascinating, essential and often endangered.
    Discovery and the other major nature networks seem to have no difficulty in captivating their audiences by portraying them in a respectful and scientifically accurate way. A show like “Shark Week” about any of them would be simply inconceivable.

    From what I can perceive, the two groups of animals that are still treated as monsters, especially by Discovery (and not at all by the BBC), are large predatory Sharks and large predatory reptiles, foremost of which Crocs.

    I find that totally unacceptable, backward and unethical – especially considering the “green” image Discovery are so desperately trying to portray.
    I also believe that Shark Conservation has progressed to a point where we have a real chance to have that changed. Public opinion on Sharks, no thanks to Discovery, appears to be shifting and we should capitalize on this ground swell.

    Alas, it appears that the current big honchos at Discovery think otherwise.
    This year’s programming is particularly shocking, pure Shark Porn – and this following the well-known efforts by Shark Conservationists and scientists to engage in constructive dialogue. Isn’t that a statement in itself, that they just don’t give a rat’s ass?

    Yours has been yet another valiant but futile attempt.
    Gasek just did what he’s being paid to do, to dodge the controversy, fend off any criticism and promote his employer. That’s not dialogue, that’s marketing.

    So: what next?

    • July 10, 2009 6:12 pm

      That’s all most of us ever expected from him. He’s doing his job, he’s made it clear that he’ll never be an ally to shark conservation. Now we keep doing what we’ve been doing, educating the public and doing everything we can to raise awareness to the issues facing sharks, the deep sea, the ocean, the planet, how the media distorts science, how the media distorts science to marginalize certain groups, and how to make beer.

      All while trying to remind people the scientists are people too. Wacky, quirky people that do strange things and are pretty damn fun to hang around with.

  22. July 10, 2009 2:51 am

    PS before u out me as complete ignoramus: it was Dian Fossey, not Goodall!

  23. July 10, 2009 4:11 pm

    Why am I not surprised that NOTHING WILL CHANGE?
    It was a nice try but there will never be a change at Discovery. They only go where the money is and people want to see blood and like to believe these fabricated stories, which we all have seen over and over again. All that Discovery Channel is interested in is money and the truth has to take a back seat. What else is new?
    Discovery will never tell the truth nor are they interested in saving the sharks because TV people are allowed to tell lies as long as they are making lots of money.
    http://www.sharkprotect.com

  24. dru permalink
    July 13, 2009 4:45 pm

    At some level, it is disingenuous for WSM to be overly critical of the Discovery Channel for peddling fiction. None of the statistics WSM proffers negate the scientific fact that certain species of man-eating sharks are just that and, by logical deduction, humans ought to have a healthy fear of them. Discovery Channel aired a show by “Dr.” Ritter in which he purported to espouse the same theories WSM seems to advance, e.g., sharks are not dangerous, thye have more to fear of us than we do them, etc. After having his calf muscle ripped off moments after trying to indoctrinate the world with “sharks are harmless” propaganda, Dr. Ritter was, of course, rushed to the hospital. Taken to its illogical conclusion, conservation depends on people seeing sharks as harmless. Taken to its illogical conclusion, people shouldn’t rush out of the water when they see a large Tiger, Bull or White shark in their immediate vicnity. That is just absurd. I have paid $ to go see White sharks off of Guadalupe Island, bears in Alaska and lions in Africa- coming face to face with such formidable predators excites us as at a very real level. But to assert that TV programming that details events of human predation is “fiction” is, again, disingenuous. There is no scientific proof whatsoever that sharks “mistake people for food.” That is the fiction I refuse to believe for it would render the shark’s perceptive faculties inept and unreliable, where we both know they are anything but. Wishful thinking in speculative gibberish such as “mistaken identity” is not science, certainly not subject to the scientific method. I think shark conservation is great, but don’t supplant science with “groupthink” to reach the desired result. It is unbecoming and an insult to people who have looked into the eyes of a White shark. There is much reason to fear their intentions. Just ask Heather Boswell.

    • July 13, 2009 5:09 pm

      “None of the statistics WSM proffers negate the scientific fact that certain species of man-eating sharks are just that and, by logical deduction, humans ought to have a healthy fear of them.”

      This is not a very precise argument. And a largely semantic one at that.

      Take Black Bears. Are they man-eating animals? I think very few actual scientists or zoologists would answer this “yes.” Under certain conditions will some individual black bears maul, kill, and eat a human? Yes.

      I’m afraid that by disregarding the “statistics” you are showing that you don’t really have a good conception of what the phrase “scientific fact” means.

      Plenty of scientific evidence has shown that sharks are not by nature hunters of humans. Will an occasional attack occur? Yes.

      “Wishful thinking in speculative gibberish such as “mistaken identity” is not science, certainly not subject to the scientific method.”

      I think you need to do a little more background research on the science/experiments… and on the scientific method.

      Does it take a week of fear-mongering programming to convince people they should have a healthy respect for creatures that could easily kill them if the fancy struck them? I don’t think so. Unless they are far below normal mental ability…

      “Taken to its illogical conclusion, conservation depends on people seeing sharks as harmless. Taken to its illogical conclusion, people shouldn’t rush out of the water when they see a large Tiger, Bull or White shark in their immediate vicnity.”

      This is just plain dumb. Very few conservationists are saying that sharks are harmless sea kittens – anymore than people trying to save the Timber Rattlesnake are saying they are cuddly reptiles. Also, the use of “illogical” here reverses what you intended to say.

      Their is a huge difference between giving people the understanding and cautious respect any wild animal deserves and teaching them with a full week of sensationalized programming that the animals are single minded killing machines that should be slaughtered (leading to the demise of ocean ecosystems by the way). If you don’t think this is true, then I don’t think your “looking into the eyes of a White Shark” was really that much of an educational experience.

    • Claire permalink
      August 3, 2009 1:58 am

      If you’re referring to the same footage that I remember seeing, the man who got his leg bitten by a bull shark was surrounded by them. Not exactly the smartest thing for an expert to do.

      • dru permalink
        August 28, 2009 5:07 pm

        Concur.

        Yet it is exceedingly symbolic of how shark “experts” are more concerned with improving sharks’ public image than dispensing accurate scientific theory. Both common sense and innate human instinct would typically suffice to get most people out of chummed water, surrounded by bull sharks. But the “expert” was trying to prove his theory that sharks are misperceived as dangerous and, in fact, have no interest in realizing a feeding opportunity at a person’s expense.

        While many shark “experts” are to be commended for theri efforts to promote conservation, this “scientific experiment” nearly cost him his life.

        How does that saying go?

        It is the cause, and not the cause of death, that makes the martyr.

        Here, this “expert” would have died a foolish death by disregarding the law of the jungle that everyone should know.

  25. dru permalink
    July 13, 2009 7:51 pm

    “This is not a very precise argument. And a largely semantic one at that.”

    Not a precise argument? Certain species of sharks have been consuming people since time immemorial. That probably explains why the root word for “shark” is a parent to a curse. But forget about semantics. That Tigers, Bulls and White sharks are “man eaters” is beyond dispute. By analogy, people with a different bias can “debate” climate change all they want but the warming works and is. The scientific data is undisputed. Certain sharks eat humans that enter the oceanic food chain.

    “Take Black Bears. Are they man-eating animals? I think very few actual scientists or zoologists would answer this ‘yes.’ Under certain conditions will some individual black bears maul, kill, and eat a human? Yes.”

    Ironic that you accuse me of playing semantics only to bolster your argument by asserting that, well, if you ask “actual scientists” if they are man-eating animals, “very few” would answer “yes.” Talk about a semantic argument!

    As an aside, why is that that when a black bear (as you correctly note) has occasion to kill and eat a human, there is a conspicuous absence of “real scientists” theorizing that the human was a victim of “mistaken identity”? What, the theory that a black bear mistook a human leg for a trout is any less asinine that a White shark mistakenly believing that a human leg was a pinniped?

    “I’m afraid that by disregarding the ‘statistics’ you are showing that you don’t really have a good conception of what the phrase ‘scientific fact’ means.”

    Is that so? Please explain how I have disregarded the statistics in a way that has subverted scientific facts. In contrast, none of the statistics cited in the article disprove any of my assertions. Back up your conclusory statements with concrete examples.

    Tell me, how does the “scientific fact” that sharks (allegedly) kill less than 10 people a year make the scientific fact that it was predation not a scientific fact? Youtube the White shark attack of Heather Boswell off of Chile. Do you know that White sharks- which are very much more generalist feeders than “real scientists with an “mistaken identity” agenda would have you believe- migrating across vast distances of ocean will eat many prey items that are normally off the menu, e.g., Petrel birds. Off Chile, that particular White shark came across a human prey and realized a feeding opportunity. It had ample time and opportunity to identify her and made a cautious attack that in no way resembles a pinniped attack. If the victim was not pulled from the water, the shark would have likely consumed the rest of her. One of the eyewitnesses stated the shark was “hanging around” after she was pulled from the water and she wanted “to get the hell back to the boat.” Why? Because she was experiencing the very real feelings of fear of a man eating shark that I am referring to in my original post.
    “Plenty of scientific evidence has shown that sharks are not by nature hunters of humans.
    Will an occasional attack occur? Yes.”

    First of all, where is this “scientific evidence”? Second, humans are not “by nature” in many of the ecosystems where they may be at the greatest risk. When they find themselves in such a situation (e.g., after the USS Indianapolis sank) lo and behold, look who is coming to dinner. I’m sure your arguments would be better left for the children’s reading club than in the real world. Have you ever been around real predators in the natural world and made eye contact with something that can eat you? Just curious.

    “I think you need to do a little more background research on the science/experiments… and on the scientific method [as it relates to “mistaken identity theory”].

    Again, please provide some substantive analysis instead of conclusory, straw man arguments. Jus this: explain how the “mistaken identity” theory can be validated by the scientific method, i.e., ‘principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.’

    (cricket, cricket)
    “Does it take a week of fear-mongering programming to convince people they should have a healthy respect for creatures that could easily kill them if the fancy struck them? I don’t think so. Unless they are far below normal mental ability…”

    No need to be judgmental. A better question is what is the means/end fit to your objection?
    I wrote: Taken to its illogical conclusion, conservation depends on people seeing sharks as harmless. Taken to its illogical conclusion, people shouldn’t rush out of the water when they see a large Tiger, Bull or White shark in their immediate vicinity.

    You replied: “This is just plain dumb. Very few conservationists are saying that sharks are harmless sea kittens – anymore than people trying to save the Timber Rattlesnake are saying they are cuddly reptiles. Also, the use of ‘illogical’ here reverses what you intended to say.”
    Is that so? As a threshold matter, the article was critical of Discovery channel because it “promotes fear of sharks.” It attempts to impugn the integrity of Discovery channel, as if, the end, fear of sharks is illogical and unfounded. It is your position, not mine.

    “Their is a huge difference between giving people the understanding and cautious respect any wild animal deserves and teaching them with a full week of sensationalized programming that the animals are single minded killing machines that should be slaughtered (leading to the demise of ocean ecosystems by the way). If you don’t think this is true, then I don’t think your ‘looking into the eyes of a White Shark’ was really that much of an educational experience.”

    Are sharks not single minded killing machines? Black bears? No. Tiger sharks? Yes. Tell me, what other behaviors should the Discovery channel focus on? Their maternal instincts? Wait. Don’t have any other than eating their young.

    As for my experience, it was deeply inspiring. Subscribing to fictional theories to explain away predation is silly.

    Res ipsa loquitur.

    • July 13, 2009 9:34 pm

      LOL

      Do you not see the point of my using the semantic argument of the black bear in comparison to the similar argument on calling a shark man-eater? It’s intentional irony. Remember the German dude who ate people? By your argument, humans can be called “man-eaters.” Now you see the point?

      “Please explain how I have disregarded the statistics in a way that has subverted scientific facts.”

      My point was one concerning the nature of “science fact,” i.e. when doing actual science, the “fact” is usually determined by the statistics themselves (as opposed to anecdotes such as “this one girl was eaten so shark’s are man-eaters”).

      Studies on Great Whites show that when they attack sea lions, etc for food – they usually consume the entire animal in a handful of massive bites after the initial attack. As just one example, Levine 1996 showed that with unprovoked White Shark attacks near South Africa 46% of the victims were “bitten but sustained no tissue loss.” Multiple studies have shown that the majority of shark attacks aren’t due to feeding behavior at all, but then again some are. However, when you compare the numbers of actual shark attacks to estimates of the numbers of encounters between humans and Whites in which the human never even is aware of the shark’s presence, the likelihood of shark attack becomes astronomically low (such estimates are obviously just that).

      How many attacks are required (specifically attacks in which feeding was the motivation) does it take to call sharks “man-eaters”? As with the bear example, and the german cannibal example, there are bound to always be certain individuals more likely to feed on a human.

      For a good review of the scientific evidence that argues against Whites normally attacking for food, see this site. I am using this link because it is free and simple to read (as opposed to most of the primary literature).

      Your whole argument was “it’s not science – you can’t test it with the scientific method.” That’s simply not true. There have been many experiments to test the theory directly (using seal mimicking dummies) as well as using indirect methods (such as simply comparing known human attacks with actual feeding behavior).

      “As a threshold matter, the article was critical of Discovery channel because it “promotes fear of sharks.””

      No – read the article again. It doesn’t criticize Shark Week just for promoting a little fear of sharks. It criticizes Shark Week for promoting FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, sensationalized ad nauseum. Big difference. It’s one of degree, but different nonetheless.

      “It attempts to impugn the integrity of Discovery channel, as if, the end, fear of sharks is illogical and unfounded. It is your position, not mine.”
      No the point is that having nothing BUT fear, resulting in the desire of large swaths of the population to simply wipe out the shark is illogical and unfounded (and disastrous for the health of the ecosystems from which mush of our food derives).

      It seems you are simply not grasping the difference between healthy respect (i.e. a little bit of fear – or at least understanding that the creature can kill you) and unhealthy irrational fear of an event that is astronomically unlikely – a fear that leads to people not even caring enough to understand the critical importance of sharks for ocean ecosystems. Ask any psychologist if there is a difference… (my wife is one FYI).

      “Tell me, what other behaviors should the Discovery channel focus on? Their maternal instincts? Wait. Don’t have any other than eating their young.”

      Huh? The point of all the above is that Shark Week shouldn’t focus on a week of nothing but shark/human interaction/killing. Tiger Shark attacks are relatively rare. How bout simply focus on them eating what they actually eat? Or their well known curiosity? Hell, even eating their own young is a great topic (which NatGeo covered in the womb – it was awesome).

      • dru permalink
        July 14, 2009 1:37 pm

        “Do you not see the point of my using the semantic argument of the black bear in comparison to the similar argument on calling a shark man-eater? It’s intentional irony.”

        Not sure that your use of the literary device is much more accurate than its intended effect. Bears are man-eaters. Read the book “Bear Tales”…there is a story about a woman who gets her arms chewed off by a ravenous black bear. If she or Tim Treadwell’s mom were sitting next to you, would you be “laughing out loud” at use of the term “man eater” as it applies to bears?

        “Remember the German dude who ate people? By your argument, humans can be called ‘man-eaters.’ Now you see the point?”

        I see that you are arguing against a straw man. I see that you are trying to win the argument on a technicality. At the end of the day, nearly all apex predators are opportunists. When humans are engaged in their normal affairs, all apex predators have a natural instinct to avoid humans. It is likely a behavioral trait that has resulted through natural selection, i.e., those with a behavioral trait to do otherwise were more often killed and less likely to pass genes to the next generation.

        The irony, here, is that I see mankind likely as a destructive force as you do. I do not support trawling, I do not support long line fishing, I do not support finning and I wholeheartedly believe that mankind has irreparably harmed the shark. As I pointed out in my first post, I think it is a disservice to science and, particularly, sociobiology to subscribe to and espouse theories (e.g., mistaken identity) simply because it helps improve sharks’ public image (the means) in order to realize the desired end (conservation).

        If this is inaccurate, I think you should stick to arguing the merits of why certain sharks shouldn’t be properly classified as “man eaters”, why people shouldn’t have a healthy fear of them and why TV programming that details actual instances of human predation shouldn’t be broadcast because it is not scientifically accurate. Quibbling about polemics is silly. I would rather have you say, “I disagree with your argument because of ______ .”

        “My point was one concerning the nature of ‘science fact,’ i.e. when doing actual science, the ‘fact’ is usually determined by the statistics themselves (as opposed to anecdotes such as ‘this one girl was eaten so shark’s are man-eaters’).”

        Where is the authority for this definition? Look, sure- evolution and global warming are both “theories”, but also facts. You are arguing that sharks aren’t man-eaters because of statistical infrequency. I am arguing certain sharks are man-eaters because they have always been known to eat people and surely ate our progenitors as they migrated out of Africa to Asia and Australia. Human beings are admittedly not a primary food item for any shark. With that said, it is a scientific fact (per your definition) that sharks are man-eaters, i.e., the historical statistics show a clear pattern of human predation. For you to cite a shark eating “this one girl” is silly and unfounded. If it was “one girl”, fine- you win. But it isn’t one girl. Science requires a dispassionate interpretation of the data. You are not being truthful.

        “Studies on Great Whites show that when they attack sea lions, etc for food – they usually consume the entire animal in a handful of massive bites after the initial attack.” As just one example, Levine 1996 showed that with unprovoked White Shark attacks [on humans] near South Africa 46% of the victims were “bitten but sustained no tissue loss.”

        Several things. First, the fact that White sharks show restraint in (your stat here) 46% of the attacks does not disprove the scientific fact that White sharks often are preying and consuming people which are perfectly edible. Thus, while human beings are not the same, nutrient rich prey item as sea lions, your argument does not disprove predation, it simply identifies investigatory behavior. I do not dispute that behavior exists.

        “Multiple studies have shown that the majority of shark attacks aren’t due to feeding behavior at all, but then again some are. However, when you compare the numbers of actual shark attacks to estimates of the numbers of encounters between humans and Whites in which the human never even is aware of the shark’s presence, the likelihood of shark attack becomes astronomically low (such estimates are obviously just that).”

        Not sure how to respond to this. You start out by admitting that sharks are known to feed on humans and then you, once again, cite statistical infrequency. I am not disputing that the risk of shark attack is astronomically high. That is why I think you are dancing around the dispute and arguing against a straw man.

        “How many attacks are required (specifically attacks in which feeding was the motivation) does it take to call sharks ‘man-eaters’? As with the bear example, and the german cannibal example, there are bound to always be certain individuals more likely to feed on a human.”

        Let us look to Gould’s commentary on what constitutes a “scientific fact”:
        Well evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don’t go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s in this century, but apples didn’t suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.

        By analogy, here, the instances of human predation by Bulls, Tigers and White sharks, et al., are the “world’s data.” These facts cannot be explained away by statistical infrequency. What is fatal to your argument, perhaps, is the law of parsimony as applied to sociobiology. There is really no other explaining other than feeding when a shark bites into a person and swallows it. Duh.

        “For a good review of the scientific evidence that argues against Whites normally attacking for food, see this site. I am using this link because it is free and simple to read (as opposed to most of the primary literature).”

        Thanks, I don’t want to get lost by fancy phrases and terms of art that are beyond me.
        “Your whole argument was ‘it’s not science – you can’t test it with the scientific method.’ That’s simply not true. There have been many experiments to test the theory directly (using seal mimicking dummies) as well as using indirect methods (such as simply comparing known human attacks with actual feeding behavior).”

        That is just silly. Are you trying to credibly contend that mistaken identity theory can be proven by the scientific method? Using a dummy is not the scientific method. Describe how it can be replicated. It can’t, it is pure speculation as to what a shark was thinking, not evidence. The fact that the human is speculating that the mature shark that just bit off Heather Boswell’s leg thought the human was seal has no basis in science. It not only presupposes that a shark cannot use its lateral lines and other perceptive faculties to differentiate a human and seal, the very notion that a predator cannot differentiate nutrient rich prey from relatively unnutritious prey is shabby sociobiology at best. Hominids have been in the ocean exploiting its resources- as a competitor and prey item for sharks – for millions and millions of years. That is science. That is a scientific fact. The notion sharks “don’t know what we are” is, again, psuedo-science. More like science fiction.
        Secondly, the fact White sharks display a more cautious approach to feeding on humans is indicative of anything but mistaken identity. If a White shark attacks and consumes a person in the same way it did an agile seal, ok, let’s hear it. But the statistics show that is not the case. Typically the culprit sharks engage in “hit and run” predation patterns. That is probably a function of the behavioral adaptation I referenced above. That is a theory I am competent to make based on my education, my personal experience and my interpretation of the data. Looking at other people’s “studies” about how predation really was mistaken identity doesn’t interest me any more than the Marlboro Man’s report on how cigarettes aren’t harmful.

        “[The article] doesn’t criticize Shark Week just for promoting a little fear of sharks. It criticizes Shark Week for promoting FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, sensationalized ad nauseum. Big difference. It’s one of degree, but different nonetheless.”

        We are back to semantics. I simply disagree in both respects.

        “No the point is that having nothing BUT fear, resulting in the desire of large swaths of the population to simply wipe out the shark is illogical and unfounded (and disastrous for the health of the ecosystems from which mush of our food derives).”

        AHA! At last, now we see the bias exposed.

        I agree with your goal but disapprove with the means. It is nothing personal.

        “It seems you are simply not grasping the difference between healthy respect (i.e. a little bit of fear – or at least understanding that the creature can kill you) and unhealthy irrational fear of an event that is astronomically unlikely – a fear that leads to people not even caring enough to understand the critical importance of sharks for ocean ecosystems. Ask any psychologist if there is a difference… (my wife is one FYI).”

        This is non sequitur from our discussion. Nor would I waste time in a therapy session getting clarification on such a pedantic point. I mean, if my girlfriend and I were ever in couple’s therapy- which is totally hypothetical. You know what I mean.

        I wrote: Tell me, what other behaviors should the Discovery channel focus on? Their maternal instincts? Wait. Don’t have any other than eating their young.

        “Huh? The point of all the above is that Shark Week shouldn’t focus on a week of nothing but shark/human interaction/killing. Tiger Shark attacks are relatively rare. How bout simply focus on them eating what they actually eat? Or their well known curiosity? Hell, even eating their own young is a great topic (which NatGeo covered in the womb – it was awesome).”

        There are different points of views as to what the best programming for Shark Week is. Personally, I would much prefer to see a show recounting the recent fatal White shark attack in Solana Beach (I was a junior lifeguard there as a kid) than revisiting the New Jersey attacks. I mean, let’s move past the New Jersey incident, shall we?

        When we had to do our final physical fitness test for junior lifeguards at Solana Beach (Fletcher Cove aka “Pillbox beach”), I remember there was the open ocean swim that was about twenty feet or so past the breakers. Now, I knew enough about White sharks even then (two decades ago) to know that it was very possible that one could be swimming by, it could be hungry and its predatory instincts could kick in and I could be killed and eaten. It was and is a scientific fact. And although, as you correctly note, it was and is exceedingly rare…the reality abides.

        The guy that was killed by the shark was our family vet. So it is hardly fair for you to make shark attacks out to be “one girl” – someone I know was a statistic. Last thing. My buddy just got back from Kauai and remarked that “it was surreal to be surfing at the same break next to the girl (Bethany Hamilton) who had her arm ripped off by a Tiger shark.” He met or knew of five different people on Kauai that were missing limbs. That is roughly one out of every 13,600 people. How many of those people are never or rarely in the Tiger shark’s habitat? How many more have gone “missing”?

        I don’t think it is ultimately a high number. But those Tiger sharks are the epitome of a generalist feeder. They have one thing on their mind. Feeding.

        Anyway, this is off the top of my head, back to work.

  26. July 14, 2009 9:48 am

    ” Taken to its illogical conclusion, conservation depends on people seeing sharks as harmless. Taken to its illogical conclusion, people shouldn’t rush out of the water when they see a large Tiger, Bull or White shark in their immediate vicnity.”

    I don’t think we need to see sharks as harmless in order to recognize the need to protect them. Nobody is denying that people sometimes get badly hurt, and rarely die, as a result of encounters with sharks. What we need to keep in mind is relative risk and reward.

    Hundreds of millions of people enter the water where sharks are every year. Approximately ten people a year are killed by sharks. If sharks wanted to kill us, a lot more than ten people would die each year.

    Personally, I’d get the $*#& out of the water if a large bull shark swam by. That doesn’t mean that I support the eradication of a species that helps keep economically important ecosystems in balance.

    You can have a healthy respect for something, as well as a desire to keep it around, without trying to convince people that it is cute and cuddly.

    • dru permalink
      July 14, 2009 1:40 pm

      “If sharks wanted to kill us, a lot more than ten people would die each year.”

      That doesn’t negate the scientific fact that when they do attack, consume and kill humans that it wasn’t an intentional act of predation. I pretty much agree with everything else you write.

      Feel free to respond to anything in my other posts. I love sharks and enjoy discussing their behavior.

      • dru permalink
        July 14, 2009 1:41 pm

        I mean WAS an intentional act of predation.

  27. July 17, 2009 10:20 pm

    If I may add my 2 cents.

    I dive four times weekly with Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks in baited conditions, whereby we not only take down 200+ Kg of Fish scraps but also hand feed them.

    Although not scientifically tested, our perception is that the Sharks are only interested in the bait and will go to great lengths in order to try and avoid any contact with the divers.
    Sometimes, the Bulls will make a point of bumping us (mouth closed) and we believe that to be aimed at asserting dominance or keeping us away from the food. Tigers on the other hand sometimes gape, which again has been interpreted as behavior aimed at keeping competitors away from a food source.
    Intuitively, we believe that the Sharks don’t perceive us as a potential meal but rather, as another large animal that happens to be there. This observation pretty much coincides with the perception of all other Shark diving operators I’ve talked to. Yes it is not scientifically proven theory but certainly an observation that could lead to formulating testable hypotheses – although I cringe at the thought of having to test Bull Shark attacks on humans! (:

    Bulls and Tigers are certainly opportunistic feeders with a very broad dietary range. They are also quite abundant in tropical reef environments.
    Yet, very few divers ever see them in un-baited conditions and to my knowledge, there are no known attacks on SCUBA divers that were just diving along and minding their own business. With thousands of divers in the water, that may well be yet again a strong indication that they just do not perceive us as food and certainly do not hunt us.

    From what I can observe, I believe that predatory Sharks just don’t have a lot of cognitive faculties but that they react to pre-determined stimuli instead.
    Those stimuli appear to include low frequency vibrations as emanated by swimmers and struggling fish and consequently, surface-oriented aquatic recreationists and spear fishermen are the most common victims of those attacks. It is also likely that Great Whites may react to certain silhouettes on the water surface, maybe in connection with the abovementioned low-frequency vibrations.

    Concerning the “mistaken identity” theory, it is a fact that very few victims get consumed by the Sharks that attack them.
    I personally investigated the death of a young woman in Tonga that got fatally attacked by a Tiger Shark. The Shark severed her leg but never came back to feed on her despite the fact that she remained in the water for more than 20 minutes. Any fisherman can confirm that a bleeding Marlin would have been consumed in minutes.

    I’ve also witnessed several accidents involving frenzied Grey Reef Sharks and Silvertips.
    In all cases, the victims were bitten by accident and were bleeding profusely – but the Sharks just did not care and did not attack. The same Sharks would instantly get excited to the point of frenzy when presented with fish blood.

    This is probably the rule and there are obviously exceptions where people got attacked and consumed – contrary to say, Saltwater Crocs where it is likely that every victim of an attack got eaten.

    But that is not the point.
    The point is that in this day and age, reducing endangered apex predators to killing machines is just not on.

    Yes, killing and hunting is what they do and it would be totally irresponsible to negate that or to depict them as being harmless.
    But they are much more than just that. Lions, Tigers, Hippos and big Bears do kill their fair share of people but nobody would ever presume to air a whole series of “documentaries” devoted to that aspect of their life history alone. We also do not demonize them by calling them “evil”, “monsters” or “killers”as everybody seems to agree that that would be profoundly unethical.
    I’m sure you get the gist.

    And yet, Discovery seems capable of producing fascinating documentaries about those animals. Obviously, the public likes them or they would not be doing it.

    All we’re asking is that Sharks be treated in the same way.

    • dru permalink
      July 22, 2009 3:19 pm

      “I dive four times weekly with Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks in baited conditions, whereby we not only take down 200+ Kg of Fish scraps but also hand feed them. Although not scientifically tested, our perception is that the Sharks are only interested in the bait and will go to great lengths in order to try and avoid any contact with the divers.”

      I agree 110%. When I was diving with White sharks, there was a decided sense that the sharks were there to realize the feeding opportunity of free tuna. I have no doubt that the mere stimulus of a boat motor in some waters is sufficient to result in sharks rising up to the surface to investigate. That is why I think it is somewhat silly for Hawaiians to complain that “cage dive operations will associate humans on boats with food.” That correlation has been established long, long ago.

      With all that said, I do not believe your example is all that germane to, much less disprove my post’s merits. The interaction you describe does not involve the same operative facts, sociobiological behaviors and attendant circumstances of human predation by bull sharks (see, e.g., Jaime Marie Daigle attack for bull shark case study). To borrow someone else’s analogy, it is equally disingenuous to point to the benign behavior usually exhibited by bears being fed in a National Park to explain away the real threat of human predation by brown bears. I will be in Katmai area in, let’s see, four weeks? There is a reason I carry bear pepper spray. If I have the unfortunate luck of encountering a very, hungry juvenile bear who is behind on his fat storage process, he might decide to attack and eat me. Make no mistake, just as the bull shark was eating Jaime Marie Daigle, so too were the brown bears eating Tim Treadwell and his girlfriend when help arrived.

      Human predation works and is. All predators have a natural, evolutionary disinclination to attack and eat the hand that feeds it. You cannot disprove the former data by pointing to the latter dynamic.

      “Sometimes, the Bulls will make a point of bumping us (mouth closed) and we believe that to be aimed at asserting dominance or keeping us away from the food.”

      That is speculation, like mistaken identity theory. I hope we agree that is not a scientific theory in a real sense. I would guess it is an attempt to frighten you away from the food supply in the immediate vicinity.

      “Tigers on the other hand sometimes gape, which again has been interpreted as behavior aimed at keeping competitors away from a food source.”

      This I agree with more. Innumerable predators- from lions to chimps to everything in between yawn as a threat display. I would imagine this is a function of a very primitive behavioral trait that shows prowess without risking injury. People once speculated that crocs leave there mouths open to cool. I always thought it was the kind of display that you attribute to the Tiger, i.e., to ward off competitors.

      “Intuitively, we believe that the Sharks don’t perceive us as a potential meal but rather, as another large animal that happens to be there. This observation pretty much coincides with the perception of all other Shark diving operators I’ve talked to.”

      Again, the fact you are there feeding them makes you a large animal there that is feeding them. You guys are the source of the food, the proximate cause of why the sharks are there. Correct?

      It would be silly of us not to look at another real world case study of human predation by bull sharks- the famous Dr. Ritter incident. He attracted the sharks with chum- yet, as more of the bull sharks arrived- and only scraps and fish oil around, the bull shark realized a food source at the human being’s expense. I watched the video. It was a classic, slow and deliberate attack on a known food item.

      It is no coincidence that bull sharks frequent all the rivers that some of the first human civilizations utilized (e.g., the Tigris, the Amazon, the Nile, Zambezi river) to this very day. To suggest that bull sharks “don’t know what people” does not comport with historical reality. That is not your opinion, is it?

      “Yes it is not scientifically proven theory but certainly an observation that could lead to formulating testable hypotheses – although I cringe at the thought of having to test Bull Shark attacks on humans! (:”

      Likewise, my friend. But why are the documented case studies I reference not the actual data?

      “Bulls and Tigers are certainly opportunistic feeders with a very broad dietary range. They are also quite abundant in tropical reef environments.

      Yet, very few divers ever see them in un-baited conditions and to my knowledge, there are no known attacks on SCUBA divers that were just diving along and minding their own business. With thousands of divers in the water, that may well be yet again a strong indication that they just do not perceive us as food and certainly do not hunt us.”

      A bull shark killed and ate William Covert in Fl. Look it up.

      At any rate, SCUBA divers (I am one, love it!) are in my mind the least likely victim of shark attacks, period, unless they are spearfishing and not taking the requisite precautions. Opportunistic feeders are just that, and when there is blood in the water, hungry sharks are inclined to feed.

      “From what I can observe, I believe that predatory Sharks just don’t have a lot of cognitive faculties but that they react to pre-determined stimuli instead.

      Those stimuli appear to include low frequency vibrations as emanated by swimmers and struggling fish and consequently, surface-oriented aquatic recreationists and spear fishermen are the most common victims of those attacks. It is also likely that Great Whites may react to certain silhouettes on the water surface, maybe in connection with the abovementioned low-frequency vibrations.”

      Without even reaching the merits of the cognitive faculty argument, isn’t it rather disingenuous for human beings to attribute faulty perceptive faculties to one of Nature’s most efficient predators? How can that be a good scientific theory?

      “Concerning the ‘mistaken identity’ theory, it is a fact that very few victims get consumed by the Sharks that attack them.”

      I agree with the data, but it doesn’t mean the shark was mistaken as to what a person was. Why is that the proper conclusion to draw from the data? Sharks employ a hit and run strategy on humans. As for White sharks, there is no scientific evidence that the bite and wait method is, in the final analysis, truly intended to “minimize the risk of injury to the shark.” (No offense, Dr. McCosker)

      My theory is that the “bite and wait” behavior is more useful for mating purposes. Take Stumpy the White shark. I do not think a shark that size is truly worried about the risk of injury if it kills or nearly kills an elephant seal on its initial attack. To the contrary, by killing the pinniped and waiting in the surrounding vicinity, it attracts a wide array of potential male suitors. Given Stumpy’s size, she is free to feed at her leisure, which no doubt she will. But I am not so sure that the observed behavior is best explained by the sharks’ PURPORTED (read: unverifiable) “fear of injury.” Those pinnipeds are in a deep state of shock. I think there may be dual functions to the observed behavior.

      But that is the problem I see with much of sociobiology. Nobody wants to make any new theories. To add insult to injury, grad students and scientists peddle theories pretextually designed to improve the White shark’s public image with the noble aim of conservation. I like the goal, but it subverts science.

      Want my theory on why White sharks stick their head out of the water? It isn’t to visually identify prey, but to try to locate any carrion- most importantly a dead whale, which may be one of the most putrid, unmistakable odors on earth. Like the large elephant kills off No Cal, dead whales offer an opportunity for White sharks to mate. (thank you, Dr. Strong)
      Whether people think that theory is good, bad or silly…I don’t really care. Especially when they are claiming the shark that just bit through Heather Boswell’s leg thought she was a seal. That doesn’t even make logical sense, i.e., if White sharks were that susceptible to mistake, people would be attacked daily.

      “I personally investigated the death of a young woman in Tonga that got fatally attacked by a Tiger Shark. The Shark severed her leg but never came back to feed on her despite the fact that she remained in the water for more than 20 minutes. Any fisherman can confirm that a bleeding Marlin would have been consumed in minutes.”

      Again, I see the evolutionary advantage of a hit and run predation strategy. Any shark that comes back to feed on a human prey (which is often has other humans coming to the rescue immediately- UNLIKE any other prey item) is most likely to be a dead shark. The hit and run strategy is a behavioral response to minimize risk of injury to the shark. Natural Selection is guided by a mysterious hand.

      “I’ve also witnessed several accidents involving frenzied Grey Reef Sharks and Silvertips. In all cases, the victims were bitten by accident and were bleeding profusely – but the Sharks just did not care and did not attack. The same Sharks would instantly get excited to the point of frenzy when presented with fish blood.”

      The Grey Reef Shark. That is hardly the same species as a Tiger, Bull or White shark. Those bites are most likely self-defense.

      I was following a 3.5 foot white tip reef shark on a night dive off Osprey Reef in Australia and it turned around and snapped at me. That too, was self-defense.

      “This is probably the rule and there are obviously exceptions where people got attacked and consumed – contrary to say, Saltwater Crocs where it is likely that every victim of an attack got eaten.”

      The rule of the Grey Reef Shark is the rule for other sharks? I don’t follow you. If you are suggesting Grey Reef Sharks are essentially harmless to people and are not man-eaters, yes, I agree.

      “But that is not the point. The point is that in this day and age, reducing endangered apex predators to killing machines is just not on.”

      You imply it is not enlightened. Science is amoral and persistent. It describes what works and is. If a Tiger shark is not a killing machine, is there any animal that is? If you say no, ok, I see your point. But how can one credibly contend that a Tiger shark is not more of a killing machine than, say, a chimp or a man, which is also a killing machine. The Tiger shark, unlike higher order primates, has no observable behaviors indicative of emotion, altruism or social interaction. Yes or No?

      “Yes, killing and hunting is what they do and it would be totally irresponsible to negate that or to depict them as being harmless.”

      Once again, the initial criticism I had was not that the article reflected sharks as “being harmless.” Why argue against a straw man? Look what the article says. It and the posts say that the Discovery channel’s programming is “junk science” and advocate “mistaken identity.”

      “But they are much more than just that. Lions, Tigers, Hippos and big Bears do kill their fair share of people but nobody would ever presume to air a whole series of ‘documentaries’ devoted to that aspect of their life history alone.”

      These are all higher order mammals. The complex web of lion prides, the social interaction of hippos and the maternal teachings of bears to cubs is just not part of the shark’s lifecycle. Are you just glossing over the data because you see yourself in all creatures and all creatures in yourself? Look, I love all animals too- but let’s be real about the innate limitations of the shark.

      If Discovery channel wanted to do a documentary about how certain instances of sow bears with cub in tow killed humans on account of “mistaken identity,” i.e., because male bears kill the cub to put the female into estrus in order to realize a mating opportunity and (the argument goes) the sows sensitivity to perceived risk to the cub triggers an attack…ok, that seems remotely plausible. But suggesting the bull shark that attacked Jaime Maire Daigle (1) thought she was some other species other than what she was (2) even though it came back repeatedly to feed on her as she was been brought to shore…that is disregarding the evidence to reach the desired result. That is the opposite of Science.

      “We also do not demonize them by calling them “evil”, “monsters” or “killers”as everybody seems to agree that that would be profoundly unethical. I’m sure you get the gist.”
      I get what you are saying, but how does ethics apply to how Science properly analyzes the data to reach proper conclusions? Maybe it is misplaced to “call sharks monsters”…why is it the purview of Science to discredit that bias? Certainly it is a subversion of Science to claim Tigers, Bulls and White sharks aren’t man-eating sharks by nature. Human beings are eaten, albeit rarely. But they did so before Linnaeus, during his life and after. What do you think the sea monsters were that early explorers described? Fairy tales or man-eating sharks?
      There is a reason why “walking the plank” was akin to a death sentence. Sharks, as I stated, have always followed boats and ships.

      Like a true account of History, Science doesn’t concern itself with the goals of pushing the conservation agenda. That is a human endeavor. Science is explaining and categorizing the data of the world.

      “And yet, Discovery seems capable of producing fascinating documentaries about those animals. Obviously, the public likes them or they would not be doing it. All we’re asking is that Sharks be treated in the same way.”

      I hear you.

      I just fail to see why Science should be subverted and TV programming censored. I love the shark for what it is.

      ‘When the moon is shining in its exceeding beauty, who would care to look upon a painted moon?’ – Shankara

      • July 23, 2009 8:40 pm

        I agree with some of your statements, but I fail to see how others measure up. For example, you say “The Tiger shark, unlike higher order primates, has no observable behaviors indicative of emotion, altruism or social interaction” – but how do they mate, then? Clearly some kind of social interaction MUST exist, albeit briefly, so that a female and male don’t just try to kill each other. I imagine if our image of chimps was solely based on certain behaviors – like them rampaging and killing other chimp bands, for example – we’d think of them as killing machines, too. Indeed, we know next to nothing about tiger shark behavior – that’s the point. The only way we can see them is to chum waters or go to where they eat. That is totally different than saying they have no other behaviors. The only behavior we document and talk about is predation – I find it extremely hard to believe they have little to no other behaviors, as I don’t think they eat 24/7.

        And what little precious other information on interesting and complex behaviors we have is completely ignored by Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” – group hunting in sixgill sharks, for example. Or even theories like the one you mentioned that food sites may be places for mating behavior… which is totally different than “oh my god look at the killer sharks! They eat people all the time!”

        To portray other aspects of the shark’s biology – reproduction, especially, would not be “subverting” science or “censoring” television, it would be more properly representing the true nature of sharks. How and where do they breed? How do the young fit into the ecosystem before they become the “maneaters” you call them? Indeed, there is a LOT of science ignored or simply deemed to “boring” for Shark Week programming, even things like the incredible images Nat Geo took of shark gestation and predation on its siblings in utero (which, frankly, was fantastic television)

        For that matter, I’m pretty sure walking the plank was a death sentence not from sharks but from dehydration and drowning first… the sharks might just enjoy the carcass once it’s dead. Without flotation or water, you’d be dead in a few hours I suspect. The sharks might not have even found you by then.

      • dru permalink
        July 27, 2009 2:18 pm

        To the extent that mating requires social interaction, I agree that Tiger sharks interact. They also interact when they congregate around an abundant food source, e.g., where the Albatross chicks learn to fly. But is that “social interaction” in a larger sense? Tiger sharks are nomadic by nature, not social.

        While it seems more true that not that “we know next to nothing about tiger shark behavior”, there is no point in trying to explain away predation. If a Tiger attacks a human and bites off someone’s arm, it seems silly to ascribe the predation behavior to abstract “curiosity.”
        With regards to your statement that, “if our image of chimps was solely based on certain behaviors – like them rampaging and killing other chimp bands, for example – we’d think of them as killing machines, too”- we must be careful to acknowledge that there is a documented array of social and maternal behaviors that conclusively show that chimps are anything but just killing machines. The scientific data shows behaviors that are wholly outside the ambit of a shark’s behavioral life cycle. Some adult male chimps seem to invest more in their ascension of the social group’s ladder than they do breeding. There is a lot of “sneaky breeding” by less dominant males. Chimps have defined roles in group hunting strategies, see, e.g., Trials of Life “Hunting and Escaping.”

        Is that the same as one White shark trying to realize a feeding opportunity by converging on a prey as another White shark closes in? No. Simply because an individual White shark may have acquired a behavioral adaptation (i.e., follow another White shark pursuing prey in order to capitalize on a feeding opportunity if the prey narrowly evades the first shark and finds itself in an uncompromising position) it does not necessarily indicate “group hunting” like lions purposely driving a herd into an ambush, much less a chimp looking conspicuous in order to herd Colobus monkeys into a ring of death.

        As for TV programming, I hear you. I think the shows you describe would be fascinating. But I also like what they have on human predation events and usually prefer it.

        As for your suggestion that people did not face sharks after walking the plank and would die in a few hours, people have survived floating at sea for days, even weeks when on some kind of raft. That is beside the point.

        Certain kinds of sharks (Oceanic white tips) that followed certain boats at certain times throughout that earlier time of History likely did not wait for someone to expire before realizing a feeding opportunity at the hapless human’s expense. That is my story and I am sticking to it.

      • July 28, 2009 2:35 am

        Well, I wouldn’t try to claim sharks never attack nor feed on people, or that TV should completely avoid talking about it. But I do think that there is a lot more that they can talk about that they choose to ignore. As a biologist who personally loves parasites, this happens a lot with them too – fascinating creatures, with amazing, complex and incredible behaviors and reproductive strategies, but all TV tends to show is “Hey look, a gross creepy crawly thing that you don’t want to catch”. (of course, again, Nat Geo did wonders with parasitic wasps in the In The Womb series… Nat Geo seems to be totally awesome about this stuff)

        And, true, there are other documented behaviors for chimps. And, clearly, there are a lot of differences, in general, between chimps and sharks. But even fearsome creatures like crocodiles and alligators – which attack humans far more frequently – get some good TV press, so why not the sharks? Besides, there ARE other documented behaviors for sharks, despite the fact that we know precious little about them.

        There are plenty of recorded behaviors which suggest far more intelligence and social interaction than we give them credit for. Herding of prey by sand tiger sharks, for example. As described, it sounds almost exactly like similar behaviors done by dolphin pods. Speaking of, there’s cooperative feeding between dolphins and sharks at massive bait balls – FANTASTIC visuals that make great television.

        I don’t despise or get mad about every program that Disc. produces. I just think that there is a clear bias towards intentionally making them into big, bad scary monsters of the deep. I don’t think that we should try to cover up “what they are” – that’s part of what makes them so damned awesome. Let’s be honest, no one cage dives with great whites because they’re cute or have fascinating social behaviors. They do it because they’re fearsome, terrifyingly beautiful creatures. I just wish that Discovery put a little more passion into their pieces – a little more support for better understanding the species as a whole (not just their predation), conservation, etc. After all, at the rate we kill sharks, they might not last that long. It’s a shame if people think that’s a good thing.

      • dru permalink
        July 28, 2009 12:04 pm

        Again, I hear you on the TV programming issue. The Discovery Channel started going downhill fast once shows like “Monster Garage” supplanted series like “Fangs”- at least in my opinion. Aside from predation TV programming, I would like to see a show on mutualistic relationships (e.g., cleaning stations) or even a full length show on remoras- how they evolved and their unique morphology. I worked in a pet store in high school and we had a 600 gallon salt tank with a nurse shark, leopard sharks, horn sharks, a carpet shark and smoothhound sharks. But not even the nurse shark was as voracious an eater as the tank’s remora.

        With all due respect, I think the “group hunting” attributed to sand tiger sharks and, more recently, White sharks is somewhat exaggerated. Just my opinion here, but “group hunting” to me necessarily implies that there is a “group” of individuals who typically share genes (e.g., a pride of lions with related females; a pod of killer whales; a troop of chimps, etc.) that hunt in coordinated movements and distribute the spoils among them, often pursuant to a social hierarchy. In all the aforementioned instances, typically members of the group perform different roles, e.g., some lions lie in wait while others drive the zebra into the ambush. It is interesting to analyze the mechanism of kin selection in higher order mammals and apply same to group hunting. I think this is a material distinction between, say, lions and sand tiger sharks. Kin selection and the evolution of altruism drive many of the behavioral differences that I see between sharks and mammals.

        Accordingly, are a few purported instances of a diver “witnessing” similar behavior among sand tiger sharks really comparable to higher order mammals’ group hunting behavior? I would say it is more analogous to crocodiles converging on a large zebra crossing the river. Like a shark, each crocodile that joins the predation event is acting purely out of self-interest. There is no social “group” of crocodiles or sharks simply because they are converging on the same resources.

        When I was underwater in Guadalupe Island my last day, on my last dive, I noticed there was a large metal bolt on the bottom of the cage. Naturally, I thought to myself: if sharks are indeed attracted to vibrations, one of five White sharks in the immediate vicinity will come to the source of the vibration. And so I took the bolt and started tapping the metal cage in a slow then fast then slow rhythm.

        I start at a dull, almost dull panicky pace. Will the sharks too small and displaced from feeding and mating come beckoning, unbidden, to this exact place?

        Dink, dink, dink, dink-dink-dink, dink…dink…dink…………dink

        What happened next utterly amazed me. This 60 year old lady next to me in the cage- talk about priceless- she put two and two together real quick and looked at me and shook her head in her underwater linguistic best and said: “stop that right now, that will attract them.” Now, mind you, three of us were in what I called the “bird cage”- because it was kind of smaller, and was floating out to the side of the boat.

        Almost simultaneously, out of the depths came the first White shark directly toward the cage. When I first saw the facial expression of this shark it seemed demonstrably different than the facial expressions of the White sharks as they approached the tuna on the rope at the surface. To be completely honest, some of the sharks expressed a sense of (bear with me) expression of annoyance when the human on the boat pulled the tuna away from their mouth right before the shark bit down on the tuna. In this regard, I must admit that I felt I was in the presence of one of the smartest fish I have ever seen. Almost a raptor-like intelligence. And those eyes.

        I always thought White sharks had black eyes. Not true. It seems as if there is a very dark blue tint but, alas, you can clearly see the pupils. You can clearly see the White shark eying you. It is unnerving in most instances.

        Yet as this shark came towards me, it was absolutely terrifying. It was as if this shark was in predation mode, not “let’s get a free meal at the cage dive” mode. It was coming right at me- not at the others, but right to the source of the commotion. This shark came so close to the birdcage that I reached out with my right hand to shake his right pectoral fin as he passed by the front of the cage, my left to right.

        Just as the first shark passed from my left to right, the third guy in the cage reached over to restrain me from putting my right hand out of the cage because he saw another shark converging nearly concurrently from his right to left. The second White shark came in so close that I reached out with my left hand and grabbed his left pectoral fin and shook it. I had a glove on but remember that it felt like a glider. I thought it might be, I don’t know, more floppy.

        As for the behavior I just witnessed, I thought of the youtube footage of the surfer in Australia (?) who was pulled by his hand by a White shark- yet the video shows another White shark converging in the same manner I witnessed underwater.

        I do not think this is group hunting. If I were a small seal, the second shark would definitely not have shared one bit of the kill, nor vice versa. Is this any different from dolphins reacting to the movements of the bait balls in response to the sharks off South Africa, or vice versa?

        Merely my opinion, but I do not think any of the observed behaviors by sharks constitutes “group hunting” in a sociobiological sense.

  28. July 18, 2009 4:39 pm

    Why are people sending comments under pseudonyms? What is wrong with telling everybody your name. Some of those comments are very well written and I think we should use our real names instead of fakes. I don’t see why not.

    • July 19, 2009 8:16 am

      People may post under whatever handle they want, pseudonymous or not. There are plenty of reasons why someone wouldn’t want to use their real name. Just because you’re ok using your real name doesn’t mean everyone is.

    • July 21, 2009 10:06 pm

      Jupp,

      Perhaps for the same reasons people blog in general under pseudonyms? There are quite a few listed there, for example. And before you start calling the SFS names, you should note that in a post on this very blog, he has revealed his real name, and explained his reasons for, even still, posting under “the Southern Fried Scientist”. I’ll let you go find it if you care.

    • dru permalink
      July 22, 2009 3:32 pm

      I post under a screen name because what is important is the substantive merits of what I write, not who I am.

      “He who writes to himself writes to an Eternal public.” – Emerson

      Knowledge is best used by someone else. If something I write makes somebody think differently, I think that is a good thing. People can become divorced from reality on account of conditioning in school to the extent that they confound the scientific study of the creature they love with the Natural Law of Science.

      I think it is important to uphold the precepts of Science.

      As an attorney, I know that counsel cannot put a witness on the stand to testify as to what his client’s dog was thinking when it bit his neighbor- not even the dog whisperer himself. It is speculation, not credible evidence.

      Why then is it any different when someone provides me a link to a scientist testifying to what a shark was thinking when it bit Bethany Hamilton? Think well on this.

      At the end of the day, the Occam’s razor must cut deeply into theoretical Science. When certain sharks are known to be man-eaters, and they partially eat someone, predation is the best exaplnation.

      If a shark bites down on a person’s leg in a “mouthing” or investigatory behavior, it isn’t predation. After all, sharks don’t have hands.

      But to use the latter to disprove the other is misguided.

      drudown…out

  29. July 19, 2009 5:32 pm

    Jawohl, Herr “General Southern Fried Scientist”

    • July 20, 2009 5:48 am

      yeah… not requiring people to reveal their identity to strangers on the internet is fascism. Ok dude.

  30. Rob Monroe permalink
    July 21, 2009 1:04 pm

    All I know is my kids saw two of the promos for Shark Week shows last night and freaked out. Thanks to Discovery Channel for reinforcing the sharks=dismemberment message. The producer interviewed would seem to be in the wrong line of work but since he’s been in the business so long, perhaps the downward trend in quality runs a parallel to his career. The idea that you have to stoop to these levels is an absurd line of BS. Somehow “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” was exciting enough back in the day. Nothing’s changed since then – except for the spread of misplaced priorities among people like Gasek.

  31. July 23, 2009 8:05 am

    Hi Dru.

    Thanks for your comments.

    You seem to assume that I’m a Shark “apologist”.
    I am not. I know and will never deny that some species of Sharks will sometimes predate on humans.

    I also agree that smaller and essentially piscivorous Reef Sharks are probably “different” from those species that are known to have attacked humans, i.e. GW, Tigers, Bulls and probably Oceanic Whitetips and Blues.
    I blog quite a bit and continue to warn against being complacent with those species, e.g. here (altho in a very different context) http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2008/12/quo-vadis-shark-diving.html

    In a nutshell, I agree with everything you say in general terms.
    Data are data and need to be looked at in a dispassionate and objective way in order to draw the correct conclusions – and yes Sharks sometimes attack and consume humans as an act of voluntary predation. Let’s thus put this 1 to rest please.

    But I disagree with some of the details, like your apparent view that Sharks and humans have co-existed long enough for Sharks to “know” them.
    Yes on an individual basis, Sharks appear to be good learners.
    The “knowledge” you seem to postulate however appears to be evolutionary in nature and the relative scarcity of interactions makes me doubt that selective pressure would have been sufficient. Sharks have been around waaaaaaay before water-dwelling hominids and may have perfected their hunting strategies much earlier on: I thus tend to believe that humans and their behavior may fall into some broader category of stimuli that would trigger predation, hence my referral to vibrations and maybe, silhouettes.
    I also do not believe that Tiger Sharks use the “hit and run” strategy – Whites however apparently do (why do you deny the explanation there but postulate it here?).
    I did look up and have found William Covert here http://www-cgi.cnn.com/US/9509/shark_attack/. As always, it may not be a clear cut case of unprovoked predation (he was catching aquarium fishes and having assisted in collecting taxonomical specimen, I know that that will arouse the interest of Sharks) or it may even be a case of scavenging.

    Again – detail.
    And speculation, and idle on top of that.

    About the second part of my post, concerning the ethics of nature programming. I’ve just written a long post about it and if you got nothing better to do, look at it under http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2009/07/thou-shalt-not.html.
    I’ve also stated my views about the ethics in biology here: http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2008/07/about-shooting-orang-utans.html

    I’m primarily a Shark conservationists and secondarily, a Shark diving operator. I also sponsor research aimed at furthering Shark conservation.

    From where I come, it matters very much how the media depict Sharks and I find Discovery to be sensationalistic, exploitative and ethically reprehensible.
    I also resent them as I believe that propagating galeophobia is in direct opposition to my efforts as a conservationist.

    It is fine to depict Sharks as predators – rarely of humans but mostly, of other prey. So why this fixation on only one aspect, attacks on humans?
    Contrary to what you seem to suggest, there would be so many more things to talk about – and I’m certainly not suggesting a tedious repetition of larmoyant programs depicting Sharks being finned!
    How about the fabulous work and insights of TOPP? Predator-prey interactions and how Sharks regulate the abundance and behavior of their prey? Schooling and social behavior of scalloped Hammerheads? Finding the elusive Longfin Mako, never filmed in the wild but often caught by longliners? Doc Gruber’s research? Whale Shark migration? Complete life cycles including orgiastic and violent mating, nurseries, etc? Interspecific and intraspecific aggression? Ethnological aspects as Shark Gods and Shark calling in the Pacific? Yes, Shark conservation initiatives, too!

    Anyway, thanks for an interesting conversation.

    • dru permalink
      July 24, 2009 3:06 pm

      “But I disagree with some of the details, like your apparent view that Sharks and humans have co-existed long enough for Sharks to ‘know’ them.”

      Well, let’s look at the scientific data. Modern Homo sapiens and their hominid precursors and relatives (i.e., Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus and even the relatively misunderstood Homo floresiensis, et al.) left Africa in an unbroken thread of successive migrations for at least 1.6-2.0mm+ years ago utilizing and ultimately colonizing marine ecosystems along Africa, Asia and eventually Australia. Many believe modern Homo sapiens rafted from Africa to North America. In any event, it would be impossible for Homo erectus to be on an island such as Flores 800,000 years ago, for example, without seafaring technology and a marine “culture.” Yet given modern human being’s dependence on marine resources, our natural buoyancy and affinity for the ocean- this hardly seems surprising.
      At a very real level, as I see the world, to suggest that sharks “do not know what humans are” would disregard the course of dealing with our direct and more collateral ancestors, as if, in the end, the shape, size and nutritional value of human beings has materially changed in 2mm years. It hasn’t from an Evolutionary point.

      Nature endows animals with a natural knowledge of what its predators are and what prey items are and gives each a hierarchical scale inside of the specific individual as a survival strategy function. At some point, remoras’ phenotype was customized to best shadow large predatory sharks. At some point, early hominids’ became bipedal and wielded spears to hunt fish off of South Africa in time immemorial. Am I to believe that White sharks and Bull sharks did not come into immediate contact with early hominids and early human beings to this very day?

      That is not what the scientific data shows. Why then start from a theoretical point of view that disregards the data? Most people have no familiarity with Evolution. I studied Physical Anthropology, Evolution and Population Genetics in undergrad. My primatology teacher worked with Jane Goodall (not, ahem, Diane Fossey) and used to hold up bones and ask me why the humerus appears as it does today?

      “It is a function of the evolutionary adaptation to a part-arboreal life cycle that includes brachiation.” Something like that.

      By analogy, the White, Bull and Tiger shark’s keen perceptive faculties are the evolutionary adaptation to predatory life cycle that includes scavenging. How could the early hominids and human beings not be on the shark’s diet? If the same sharks occasionally eat people in South Africa today, why would someone assert that they didn’t eat people 150,000 years ago off of South Africa- much less “know what we are” today? That doesn’t even make logical sense.

      “Yes on an individual basis, Sharks appear to be good learners.”

      Good learners for fish, to be sure. But why did our family dog (that had no experience with guns) run from our neighbor when he showed us his new rifle? My dog had no “personal knowledge” with guns. Why do crocodiles in the Northern Territory flee into the water when a hunting party motors through? Predators- all animals- have been hunted by human beings since time immemorial and there is some evolutionary mechanism by which a fear of humans has been ingrained on the coil of the gene, so to speak.

      So, again, in my opinion, it is shortsighted to look at any animal- whether sharks or human beings- as being a product of their current life cycle without a dispassionate appreciation of the evolutionary history that preceded them. There is a reason why dogs loves to play tug of war or lick your mouth. Just look at how wild dogs and wolves feed their young.

      “The ‘knowledge’ you seem to postulate however appears to be evolutionary in nature and the relative scarcity of interactions makes me doubt that selective pressure would have been sufficient.”

      Where is your evidentiary support for “relatively scarcity of interaction”?

      You and I both know (as does most anyone reading this on this site, presumably) that of all the large predatory sharks, Tiger sharks are the least finicky eaters. They will eat just about anything; that is a function of their ecological niche. Why would it be far fetched to postulate that when Tiger sharks encountered early hominids, Homo erectus and early human beings in an uncompromising position that they wouldn’t realize the feeding opportunity there any less than they did after the USS Indianapolis sank? If a prehistoric raft came apart in a storm, am I to presume that sharks wouldn’t realize a feeding opportunity of a wayward hominid any less than it would a different primate (e.g., a macaque monkey)?

      This one fact scientists who espouse mistaken identity hate: human beings are 100% nutritious. Tell me, if we share 98% of our DNA with chimps, why would chimps taste good to some humans, why would monkeys taste good to chimps and Indian tigers and humans taste good to crocodiles…but hominids and humans taste bad to Tiger sharks?

      I get it, primates (e.g., humans) have a far less nutritional value than a fatty pinniped. What I don’t get it why that is germane to larger scientific inquiries and unfounded conclusions.
      “Sharks have been around waaaaaaay before water-dwelling hominids and may have perfected their hunting strategies much earlier on: I thus tend to believe that humans and their behavior may fall into some broader category of stimuli that would trigger predation, hence my referral to vibrations and maybe, silhouettes.”

      Even assuming, arguendo, that sharks were evolved “waaaaay” before the first coastal hominids entered their domain or fished the Zambezi river- why would sharks not be, as a matter of natural selection, required to adopt survival strategies in response to the newly introduced species into the food chain? Humans and their progenitors (as I said earlier here) were and are both a competitor and a prey item for certain sharks.

      If humans started going to the moon and say life up there, ok, the alien life has no course of dealing with humans and mistaken identity might apply. I just don’t see what it is all that different in the first Australopithecines venturing out past the breakers and your silhouette.
      Although best left for a different discussion, from whence comes this unseasonable theory that sharks would misidentify humans (low calorie food item) with a seal (high calorie food item)? Would a visual creature such as a human misidentify a pine cone for a sardine? You may laugh, but to attribute such an emphasis on, for example, a White shark’s vision relegates its other, more primary perceptive faculties (e.g., lateral lines, ampullae of lorenzini (sic.?), etc.) that evolved in response to the shark’s ecological niche.

      Have to get back to work, will respond to the rest of your thoughts next week.

      Best,
      drudown

      • July 24, 2009 3:58 pm

        “Well, let’s look at the scientific data. Modern Homo sapiens and their hominid precursors and relatives (i.e., Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus and even the relatively misunderstood Homo floresiensis, et al.) left Africa in an unbroken thread of successive migrations for at least 1.6-2.0mm+ years ago utilizing and ultimately colonizing marine ecosystems along Africa, Asia and eventually Australia.”

        Coastal ecosystems maybe, estuaries for sure, but marine systems? Not quite. The ocean is a BIG place, even if every human that ever lived lived on the coast, most marine organisms would still never encounter a human being.

        “Many believe modern Homo sapiens rafted from Africa to North America.”

        Speculative at best, certainly not ‘scientific data’. The Berring Land bridge remains the only evidence-based human migration theory.

        “In any event, it would be impossible for Homo erectus to be on an island such as Flores 800,000 years ago, for example, without seafaring technology and a marine “culture.” Yet given modern human being’s dependence on marine resources, our natural buoyancy and affinity for the ocean- this hardly seems surprising.”

        Why would that be impossible? Modern animals have been washed out and ended up colonizing islands far away from their point of origin without the aid of any technology of culture.

        “At a very real level, as I see the world, to suggest that sharks “do not know what humans are” would disregard the course of dealing with our direct and more collateral ancestors, as if, in the end, the shape, size and nutritional value of human beings has materially changed in 2mm years. It hasn’t from an Evolutionary point.”

        Sure it has. You really thing modern humans have the same nutritional composition as Ida, or Lucy, or even Neanderthal? No change in muscle structure, fat composition, size, diet? None at all?

        “Nature endows animals with a natural knowledge of what its predators are and what prey items are and gives each a hierarchical scale inside of the specific individual as a survival strategy function.”

        No it doesn’t. That’s just woo. Nature doesn’t ‘endow’ anything with anything. Animals have predator/prey instincts, but they don’t automatically know what they can and can’t eat. It’s either trial and error or stick to something smaller than you and hope it’s not poisonous. Of course, that’s not to say that avoidance behaviors don’t evolve over time to things like bright colors. simply because those that aren’t cautious don’t survive to reproduce.

        “At some point, remoras’ phenotype was customized to best shadow large predatory sharks. At some point, early hominids’ became bipedal and wielded spears to hunt fish off of South Africa in time immemorial. Am I to believe that White sharks and Bull sharks did not come into immediate contact with early hominids and early human beings to this very day?”

        Not really sure what, if anything, you’re trying to argue here? Am I to believe that as soon as Homo sapiens picked up spears, all Bull Sharks suddenly knew they were being hunted?

        “That is not what the scientific data shows. Why then start from a theoretical point of view that disregards the data? Most people have no familiarity with Evolution. I studied Physical Anthropology, Evolution and Population Genetics in undergrad. My primatology teacher worked with Jane Goodall (not, ahem, Diane Fossey) and used to hold up bones and ask me why the humerus appears as it does today?”

        Argument from authority. But honestly, if you’ve studied evolution and population genetics, why are you going out of your way to misrepresent these concepts with phrases like “nature endows…”

        “It is a function of the evolutionary adaptation to a part-arboreal life cycle that includes brachiation.” Something like that.

        “By analogy, the White, Bull and Tiger shark’s keen perceptive faculties are the evolutionary adaptation to predatory life cycle that includes scavenging. How could the early hominids and human beings not be on the shark’s diet?”

        Because the ocean is enormous and early human populations numbered in the tens of thousands?

        “If the same sharks occasionally eat people in South Africa today, why would someone assert that they didn’t eat people 150,000 years ago off of South Africa- much less “know what we are” today? That doesn’t even make logical sense.”

        I have yet to be presented with any case of a shark actually EATING a person. Attacks sure, but definitive feeding events? Not one. Point me to them, fine, but as of now I’ve never seen any.

        “Yes on an individual basis, Sharks appear to be good learners.”

        “Good learners for fish, to be sure. But why did our family dog (that had no experience with guns) run from our neighbor when he showed us his new rifle? My dog had no “personal knowledge” with guns. Why do crocodiles in the Northern Territory flee into the water when a hunting party motors through? Predators- all animals- have been hunted by human beings since time immemorial and there is some evolutionary mechanism by which a fear of humans has been ingrained on the coil of the gene, so to speak.”

        Or they simply flee from things they’re unfamiliar with. Your mechanism fails.

        And speaking of being illogical – “All animals have been hunted since [cliche] time immemorial…” Really, you’re going to put that out there? Velciraptors, Alviniconcha, Orange Roughy, Antarctic Penguins, they’ve all been hunted by humans since recorded history.

        But see, now I see where you’re coming from. I get why you make these huge generalization. You aren’t seeing the forest for the trees. To you humans were it. They’ve got to be the biggest and the best. The hunters. It couldn’t possibly be that were just another cog in this huge systems that’s been running for 4.5 billion years. No damnit, we’re important’.

        Quite simply, I just don’t thing you realize exactly how big the ocean is.

        “So, again, in my opinion, it is shortsighted to look at any animal- whether sharks or human beings- as being a product of their current life cycle without a dispassionate appreciation of the evolutionary history that preceded them. There is a reason why dogs loves to play tug of war or lick your mouth. Just look at how wild dogs and wolves feed their young.”

        I agree, that is shortsighted. But you need to take a step back and really look at the evolutionary history. Also, we selectively bred dogs over thousands of years to have traits we liked. Husbandry works much faster than natural selection.

        I’m sorry, I wanted to comment on all the points you brought up, but I can’t. It just gets too convoluted after this. You’re arguments from evolution are quickly moving to the absurd. The world is much bigger than you seem to present it as, early human populations were much smaller, and there probably were very, very few chances for humans and sharks to interact. To say they’ve evolved a taste for humans is flawed in the extreme. More likely is the fact that there are 6.5 billion of us now, so statistically someone’s gonna run into a shark, just like someone will get hit by a falling coconut.

        That doesn’t mean the coconut is hunting us.

      • dru permalink
        July 24, 2009 6:48 pm

        “Coastal ecosystems maybe, estuaries for sure, but marine systems? Not quite. The ocean is a BIG place, even if every human that ever lived lived on the coast, most marine organisms would still never encounter a human being.”

        Is a coastal ecosystem a marine ecosystem? Yes. Have human beings and their progenitors been living in coastal ecosystems and along rivers with Bull sharks (e.g., Zambezi) for at least a million years? Yes. Tell me, do the indigenous people of Fiji qualify as being part of the marine (I mean coastal marine) ecosystem?

        By analogy, someone might object to the notion that humans are animals. That is, the mammalian order is, figuratively speaking, a BIG place. But humans are primates and primate is a mammal. So too, have human beings always had a constant, unbroken and direct inter-specific relationship with Bulls, Tigers and White sharks. That is a scientific fact.

        “[The theory that modern Homo sapiens rafted from Africa to North America is] speculative at best, certainly not ’scientific data’. The Berring Land bridge remains the only evidence-based human migration theory.”

        Look, I didn’t suggest Berengia wasn’t the means by which the New World was colonized. I was pointing out that many people think it is entirely possible the first inhabitants actually rafted over before Berengia was ever utilized (see, “Peñon woman” found near present day Mexico City) with distinctly Caucasian features). In 1963 E.F. Greenman based his theory that early Homo rafted on trait similarities between Northeast American Indians and Upper Paleolithic cultures- while others further theorized same based on early Holocene American Indian skeletal morphology and Europeans. So I am not here to debate the merits of whether the scientific data that earlier Homo in North America that tended to have dolichocephalic crania features (more closely associated with European populations) as opposed to subsequent early Homo populations with broader brachycephalic heads (more closely associated with Asian populations) means that humans made it here by raft and, given the tiny human populations, these traits were expressed in greater frequency on account of genetic drift. But there is scientific data there to theorize from.

        There is no other credible scientific theory as to how modern Homo sapiens colonized Australia, parts of the Asia-Pacific rim and much, much more recently, Hawaii. The idea that these early seafaring people didn’t encounter sharks is asinine, misplaced and unfounded. That is the issue here, as much as populating the New World is fascinating.

        “Why would [it] be impossible [for Homo erectus to be on an island such as Flores 800,000 years ago… without seafaring technology and a marine ‘culture’]? Modern animals have been washed out and ended up colonizing islands far away from their point of origin without the aid of any technology of culture.”

        Why has no physical anthropologist ever proffered your hypothesis then? Taken to its illogical conclusion, a man and a woman got caught in a riptide and floated to Flores, reproduced and voila…we have a new colony. The kind of genetic bottlenecking that would ensue would certainly result in something that might not look entirely human (see, e.g., the Hobbits of Flores). But Homo erectus and early Homo were not confined to such chance events. The protein-rich marine ecosystem that they utilized fueled the reorganized brain. We are talking about the systematic colonization of large swaths of coastal ecosystems by early human beings in a myriad of different contexts over vast periods of time. Evolution is defined as the change in gene frequencies over time.

        “ Sure it has. You really thing modern humans have the same nutritional composition as Ida, or Lucy, or even Neanderthal? No change in muscle structure, fat composition, size, diet? None at all?”

        How can you credibly contend that modern human beings taste demonstrably different than creatures that share 99-100% of our DNA? We may be smaller in stature, but that goes to the portion of the meal. The DNA produces the same flesh and bones that has far, far more of a similarity than any purported difference. What did Aesop write? ‘Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.’ You lose.

        “No it doesn’t. That’s just woo. Nature doesn’t ‘endow’ anything with anything. Animals have predator/prey instincts, but they don’t automatically know what they can and can’t eat. It’s either trial and error or stick to something smaller than you and hope it’s not poisonous. Of course, that’s not to say that avoidance behaviors don’t evolve over time to things like bright colors. simply because those that aren’t cautious don’t survive to reproduce.”
        Is that so? If every animal had to get bit by a Cobra after it shows its threat display, or every fish had to approach a Tiger shark before it could know what it was- those animals would be fatally bit or eaten, respectively, and would pass no genes to the next generation. That is just poppycock.

        You say that animals have predator/prey instincts but Nature doesn’t endow anything. Where do these instincts arise from? If you say “trial and error”, you are in a fantasy world. Maybe solving complex problems or developing complex hunting strategies for higher order mammals…but for sharks? Sharks have zero maternal care. How do Tiger sharks know to go to where the Albatross chicks learn to fly? How to Whale sharks know where the plankton arrive? How do animals know how to do anything? You have no idea. You might as well tell me why the sky is blue. You can explain the law of chromatics but the sky is blue, irrespective of the “scientific reason” you provide. Sociobiology works and is and animals have innate instincts that I worded as “endowed.” It is difficult to conceptualize. I don’t know how it arrived but I know that the behavioral traits that lead to survival and success will be naturally selected.

        “At some point, remoras’ phenotype was customized to best shadow large predatory sharks. At some point, early hominids’ became bipedal and wielded spears to hunt fish off of South Africa in time immemorial. Am I to believe that White sharks and Bull sharks did not come into immediate contact with early hominids and early human beings to this very day?”
        “Not really sure what, if anything, you’re trying to argue here? Am I to believe that as soon as Homo sapiens picked up spears, all Bull Sharks suddenly knew they were being hunted”?
        Tell me, how long have human beings and their progenitors been fishing the Zambezi river? Before they used fishing nets, they used spears. How could human beings human beings and their progenitors not come into contact with sharks knowing sharks natural proclivity and evolutionary instinct to come to the scent of fish blood and their writhing, struggling bodies? Duh. For someone to argue sharks don’t know what people are disregards the scientific data of this simple, single example. That is what I am arguing.

        “Argument from authority. But honestly, if you’ve studied evolution and population genetics, why are you going out of your way to misrepresent these concepts with phrases like “nature endows…”

        Not sure what argument from authority means. If it means that I give much more credence to what my anthropology professors Dr. Stephen Zegura theorized and taught me about Evolution and Dr. Mary Ellen Morebeck theorized and taught me about Sociobiology than anyone here, I do. Regardless of what you learned trawling for jellyfish in some remote part of the sea, if you are going to tell me that my professor Dr. Stephen Zegura was wrong about Homo erectus and early Homo needed a lot of protein to fuel the brain’s evolution and the sea provided the requisite resources, and you are right that human beings have no history in marine ecosystems, I suggest you take a walk on the beach to clear your head.
        Nothing personal, but your Southern Fried Science on this subject tastes like junk food for the mind and is sugar coated with bias.

        “Because the ocean is enormous and early human populations numbered in the tens of thousands?”

        Irrespective of any hominid or early Homo social group’s population, they always had a constant, unbroken and direct inter-specific relationship with Bulls, Tigers and White sharks. That is a scientific fact. By analogy, irrespective on the infrequency of sharks consuming human beings, certain sharks are known-man-eaters. That too is a scientific fact.
        “I have yet to be presented with any case of a shark actually EATING a person. Attacks sure, but definitive feeding events? Not one. Point me to them, fine, but as of now I’ve never seen any.”

        Read “In Harm’s Way” describing the USS Indianapolis sinking. Hundreds of sailors were eaten alive.

        “Yes on an individual basis, Sharks appear to be good learners.”

        “Or they simply flee from things they’re unfamiliar with. Your mechanism fails.”

        Your abrupt dismissal of natural phenomena does not disprove empirical knowledge. Animals have instincts that operate as a survival strategy. They know what to eat, where it is and what to avoid. To imply as you do that precocial fish, birds and reptiles operate in their ecological niche like the most altricial animal of all (mankind) as if, in the end, they are learning and surviving by trial and error is silly. I don’t know what world you are living in.

        “And speaking of being illogical – “All animals have been hunted since [cliche] time immemorial…” Really, you’re going to put that out there? Velciraptors, Alviniconcha, Orange Roughy, Antarctic Penguins, they’ve all been hunted by humans since recorded history.”

        Ah me, TGIF. Name a species that coexisted with prehistoric Homo sapiens- or even Native Americans- that wasn’t hunted, known and/or exploited if it had some redeeming value or was a direct competitor. I know your sense of time seems to be off, but dinosaurs? Try to be serious.

        “But see, now I see where you’re coming from. I get why you make these huge generalization. You aren’t seeing the forest for the trees. To you humans were it. They’ve got to be the biggest and the best. The hunters. It couldn’t possibly be that were just another cog in this huge systems that’s been running for 4.5 billion years. No damnit, we’re important’. “
        Oh my. The bias you project onto me is what prevents you from seeing things as they are, I’m afraid. I cannot say that I do not have a tremendous amount of respect for the ways a scrawny primate subdued the natural world. To assert we ascended to this position as a matter of chance and fortuitous scavenging is the result of a different bias that presses down upon academia. But you know, I see where she is coming from.

        “Quite simply, I just don’t thing you realize exactly how big the ocean is.”

        It is, like, pretty big?

        “I agree, that is shortsighted. But you need to take a step back and really look at the evolutionary history. Also, we selectively bred dogs over thousands of years to have traits we liked. Husbandry works much faster than natural selection.”

        What do I need to look at that you are going to teach me? My ears are full of wanting. Are you here to tell me that husbandry works much faster than natural selection? If you want to impress me, explain how gene flow, mutation, natural selection and genetic drift coalesced together to produce the Hobbit people of Flores.

        And, of course, how they got there and where they went.

        “I’m sorry, I wanted to comment on all the points you brought up, but I can’t. It just gets too convoluted after this. You’re arguments from evolution are quickly moving to the absurd.”
        Thanks for being gentle with me. I appreciate your candor.

        “The world is much bigger than you seem to present it as, early human populations were much smaller, and there probably were very, very few chances for humans and sharks to interact.”

        I see.

        ‘Enter the ocean, enter the food chain.’

        Humans and their precursors have done so for over 2mm years. I rest my case.

        “To say they’ve evolved a taste for humans is flawed in the extreme.”

        Why did the sharks that arrived on the scene of the sinking USS Indianapolis stay until the help arrived five days later, you say?

        Calling all sharks: the US Navy’s all-you-can-eat buffet.

        “More likely is the fact that there are 6.5 billion of us now, so statistically someone’s gonna run into a shark, just like someone will get hit by a falling coconut. That doesn’t mean the coconut is hunting us.”

        You sound like Dr. Ritter himself. He tried to explain the same psuedo-scientific propaganda to Nigel Marvin until a Bull shark bit off the bottom part of his leg giving all a scare.

        Watch the youtube video, my dear friend.

        Blood, blood…

        everwhere.

      • July 24, 2009 8:07 pm

        Not sure what argument from authority means. If it means that I give much more credence to what my anthropology professors Dr. Stephen Zegura theorized and taught me about Evolution and Dr. Mary Ellen Morebeck theorized and taught me about Sociobiology than anyone here, I do. Regardless of what you learned trawling for jellyfish in some remote part of the sea, if you are going to tell me that my professor Dr. Stephen Zegura was wrong about Homo erectus and early Homo needed a lot of protein to fuel the brain’s evolution and the sea provided the requisite resources, and you are right that human beings have no history in marine ecosystems, I suggest you take a walk on the beach to clear your head.
        Nothing personal, but your Southern Fried Science on this subject tastes like junk food for the mind and is sugar coated with bias.

        Arguement from authority means that you are saying “look how great my teachers were, obviously I’m right.” Otherwise, what else would be the point of boasting about who they were? Your profs were good scientists, no doubt about it, that doesn’t mean everything you say is pure gold (it also doesn’t mean everything they say is pure gold either, science is a pretty good system for admitting when it’s wrong).

        But of course, you never took the time to read my response, merely acted offended and changed the subject. Shockingly, no one challenged your point that we do indeed need lots of protein to fuel our brains, and the sea can provide it. What’s you point? That a small population of humans on an African coastline is going to change the behavior of sharks at the genetic level just because a very small percentage of sharks encounter this population?

        We don’t sugar coat down here. The bias is all yours. Nothing personal.

      • dru permalink
        July 27, 2009 12:43 pm

        Just relax. The bias I perceive in the initial article and subsequent posts is not an inherently ununderstandable one.

        That I see the world differently than you is no big deal. Reasonable minds can disagree on a wide array of subjects. It is my opinion that scientific perception should be washed in a speechless real. That is why I find many of the comments about shark predation on human beings, people have no business interacting with sharks, sharks don’t know what human beings are misguided. Lanternfish? Yes, those are all true statements. Bull, Tiger and White sharks? Surely you jest.

        First things first, in no way do I intentionally or unintentionally wish to ascribe my theories to Dr., Zegura- regarding the marine ecosystem fueling the ever-reorganizing brain in very small populations of early Homo, tiny isolated populations, fueling the Founder’s Effect like a miner might shovel coal and place purposely on the fire, let’s retire, shall we, this silly notion that a person such as myself out of undergrad school 12 years would try to rest his laurels on professors long since gone never wrote never heard from them since.

        Not this time, Utah.

        “You know I can’t handle a cage, man.” – Bodhi, Point Break

        Let me place my view of Science as applied to Sharks upon the tips of interested eyelashes.

        Science is like immortal diamond. Science steals facts like a thief in the night, and holds down the pillow and suffocates our more extravagant emotions unmercilessly. So too, I believe, must our understanding of all predators be honed like a blade inside of the mind, this new slate so much easier to survey, free from obstacles and attachment. Sharks have an ecological niche that epitomizes realizing feeding opportunities at any unfortunate creatures expense, e.g., a Tiger shark will feed on a feral pig that has washed out to sea during heavy rains. It doesn’t need to come into daily contact with feral pigs in order for Science to definitively determine that the Tiger shark was preying on the feral pig.

        Res ipsa loquitur.

        Why then should we look at the human predation after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis with different eyes? If anything, I would imagine that certain species of sharks that would typically shy away from any contact with humans may have been drawn to the scene and realized a feeding opportunity at the helpless sailors’ expense. That is a shark being a shark.

        Do we know this or don’t we? Sharks would have been naturally drawn to the commotion, blood and natural distress signals emitted by the wounded sailors suddenly immersed into the Coral Sea. Under the analysis proffered by various posters here, the sharks would perhaps bite the wounded sailors in a mouthing type motion, remove no flesh from this “unknown” thing that magically appeared in the shark’s ecosystem and swim away in search of more nutrient rich prey. But that is not what the scientific data shows, now is it? There were (literally) hundreds of sharks drawn to the scene and (literally) hundreds of men were attacked and partially or totally consumed.

        Who my favorite professors were, what they lectured about 14 years ago and what they think about prehistory and genetics is immaterial.

        Not knowing that the cage dive operation actually helps facilitate White shark population growth, a person, far away on the internet, looks askance on anything perceived to be artificial, not knowing that bias is the worst possible distortion. If they thought about it, maybe cage diving in Guadalupe might help facilitate White shark reproduction by bringing different sharks from different gene pools together, i.e., facilitating gene flow.

        That is my opinion.

        If you want to discredit me, please address the substantive merit of my theories. There is no need to impute an “argument by authority” when my substantive analysis is right in front of you like a fin cutting through the water.

        The bull shark lives.

  32. July 25, 2009 7:16 am

    Thanks SFS – I think… (:

    • July 26, 2009 3:07 pm

      No problem, for some reason this thread’s got me more ornery than usual.

      • July 27, 2009 3:31 am

        Ornery? Nah, we hadn’t noticed ;)

  33. Joana Flor Tavares permalink
    August 6, 2009 3:15 pm

    Mr. Paul Gasek should throw his progenitors as bait for sharks and get it on camera! I think the public he is so enthusiastically trying to educate and entertain with Shark Week would LOVE IT! He would make tons of money, which is what Discovery Channel really wants and we, losers who spend our lives debating ways to protect the oceans in blogs and academia can feel a little less screwed over by this combination between human stupidity and unescrupulous drive to make money.

    • dru permalink
      August 28, 2009 4:11 am

      Dear Mr. WSM:

      Curiosity?

      If this dialogue is the prevailing consensus, then the world might as well be flat. Just because everybody says so does not make it so. If that makes me a “lunatic” to say black is black and white is white, subverting the principle to reach an ulterior aim is the very much not Science. What better than the Heliocentric debate? There is a different dogma. Problem is, this theory- this entire waste of vast intellectual resources- all of this is unnecessary. Tiger sharks will eat anything. A human being is an edible thing. Throughout recorded history, Tiger sharks have been observed to realize feeding opportunities on human beings, e.g., maritime disasters, swimming at night with a bleeding cut on the deep side of the reef. Therefore Tiger sharks are man-eaters. How is that not a Scientific fact? How can anyone- irrespective of their “credentials” – impugn the veracity of the Scientific fact that Tiger sharks are, indeed, man-eaters?

      If a Tiger shark bites into a human being, a turtle, a pig, a dog, a cow or a dead whale…it is eating. Why aren’t we talking about whether a Bald Eagle thought a trout was a snake was a garden hose? It isn’t Science. It is a distraction to understanding Science. I see no good in this.

      I see links and interviews and shark theories strewn across the internet superhighway. Some of these theories espoused are nothing more than children’s tales, public relations and speculation masquerading as a contest of principles. Science deals with facts, data and measurements. It is the study of what is. It has no business with ideas of what “should be” or how human perception plays a role when, in reality, the identification and analysis of the purported “bias” is, in itself, a much deeper and misplaced bias because it turns away from the true Scientific data. In other words, the Shark Week shows (“Sharkbite Summer”, “Top Five Eaten Alive”, et al.) constitute evidence in the record for Scientists to analyze. It is absolutely contravenes fundamental precepts of Science (e.g., Sociobiology) when theories espoused are not in accord with what is already in the evidentiary record and, above all, an appreciation of the White, Bull, Tiger and Oceanic Whitetip shark’s ecological niche is. In this latter regard, why would any Scientist postulate that (as Discovery “Shark Facts” incorrectly notes) that the reason one of these sharks bites humans is due to “curiosity”? That is not only pure conjecture, it is a faulty inference to make in several regards. First and foremost, White, Bull, Tiger and Oceanic Whitetip sharks aren’t capable of “curiosity” in any “mammalian” sense, much less an abstract interest in “what things are,” as if, in the end, all these sharks’ ancestors have not had a continuous, unbroken and albeit mostly undocumented course of dealing with one another. Like anything in the sea, sharks know what they are by now.

      If you think no Tiger shark instinctively knows what a dog is, much less be able to differentiate a dog from a sea turtle (i.e., relying on the myriad of perceptive faculties), then that is junk Science. The fact Tiger sharks eat dogs, turtles, cows and people is Scientific evidence. How can any theory that contradicts with the Scientific data be correct? I would appreciate it if someone who visits this website or hears about the inquiry by word of mouth, to, i.e., set the record straight. Sensationalist or not, I challenge any person and respectfully request that someone explain to me what about “Sharkbite Summer” (1) is not the evidence of shark behavior we seek; (2) how it is Scientifically inaccurate and (2) why true Scientists should believe or purport to divine any credible evidence about shark/human interaction from sharks interacting with dummies or mannequins? Why would we not examine the actual shark/human interaction depicted in the shows that recount operative facts (“Sharkbite Summer”, “Top Five Eaten Alive”, et al.)?

      I really want to know sharks. I love sharks too.

      I believe in conservation and have never killed a shark in my life. Well, a blue shark someone brought in died in the pet store I worked in. But that wasn’t my fault, obviously.

      When I saw that blue shark under the UV lights…it was so much more beautiful than I ever thought a blue shark would be in person. But that is like the Scientific “truth” about sharks itself. It makes them more beautiful. They have a place in the world like a hyena. It is equal scavenger and hunter. Trying to conceptualize it is silly. Science outruns pursuit and is fixed and serene, like melting ice. Detached. That is my opinion.

      But I swam up this stream for yours, Why Sharks Matter.

      Where is the evidence to support the theories and “Shark Facts”- e.g., sharks bite people out of curiosity? If a predator such as a shark is by nature nearly equal scavenger (e.g., a nomadic male lion), why impute emotions and motivation and intention that does not correspond with the creature’s ecological niche? Where is the evidence in the record to reach the conclusions? I see evidence of predation after the USS Indianapolis sank. The fact some men “never even saw a shark” is evidence germane to the threshold inquiry. All the statistics and bee stings and actuarial tables are all Scientifically irrelevant to understanding White, Bull, Tiger and Oceanic Whitetip sharks, correct? So why is there so much narrative about statistical infrequency, as if, in the end, we are trying to predict earthquakes and nobody has a clue when or why one comes at a particular time.

      When the overloaded refugee boat sinks in the Caribbean we have the data to analyze. What is the statistical frequency of attacks in these instances? If any person’s reaction is: that’s not fair! I seriously question if everyone is practicing Science in the end.

      Take the “White shark expert” on “White shark appetite.” When the White shark attacked the rubber craft, the “expert” hypothesized that the White shark “thought it was a dead whale”; a dead elephant seal;” or “another shark and it elicited a territorial response.” Talk about striking out. As a threshold matter, there is no Scientific evidence that White sharks are “territorial” in any sociobiological sense, e.g., lions, hawks or chimps. White sharks are not known to attack other White sharks in their immediate vicinity to establish their territory. Equally inapt is the theory that a relatively mature White shark would “mistake” the most putrid smell in the sea with a dingy. Sharks have been under boats as long as boats have been afloat. Think about it. That and how infectious this “mistaken identity theory” has become. Science does not rely on speculation, much less faulty inferences as those proffered, particularly after previous shows the same week aptly note and delineate sharks’ keen perceptive faculties, much less how important whale carcasses and elephant seal kills likely play in facilitating White shark mating. That is not “nitpicking” or playing “armchair” quarterback. It is seeing things as they are and questioning junk Science.

      That shark may have been “curious” if biting the boat would result in some kind of feeding opportunity, like a wolf might knock over a garbage can. But playful, abstract curiosity? Love has nothing more to do with it.

      “a great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep” – Saul Bellow

      Talk about loving sharks, Jimmy Hall and I dived with sharks together…and, fortuitously, I recently watched his CNN clip with the Tiger sharks drawn to the whale carcass. I emphatically agreed with everything he said about the sharks having little interest in him with such an abundant and more enticing food source next to him, but his assertions that (1) if it is clear water- the shark can see what you are to eliminate a case of mistaken identity and, as such, (2) the theory that sharks are man-eaters becomes a misnomer. The Boswell incident is Scientific evidence in the record that totally contradicts these “revisionist” theories. Isn’t that the point of what many of the readers and students and academics and conservationists that migrate here and much farther beyond are trying to establish as “Science”, Why Sharks Matter?

      To know what a White, Bull, Tiger and Oceanic Whitetip shark really is does not require a ladder to see, nor an ethical soapbox.

      Is that rude to say or is that true?

      Does being “fair” to sharks matter when dispensing Science?

      Just curious.

      If I am asked to believe that I need some sort of appreciation of how endangered sharks are in order to see any creature as it exists in its respective ecological niche, juxtaposed against its species-specific adaptations and evolutionary trajectory, i.e., how its shape, hunting/defense strategies and perceptive faculties are an expression of changes in gene frequencies over time… where were we? I actually wonder if we are all still talking Science.

      That is fair.

      The Science of understanding a White, Bull, Tiger and Oceanic Whitetip shark has no business with human society other than that Homo sapiens and its precursors were a prey item and competitor of these sharks. Anyone that talks about JAWS, as if, in the end, a movie seen by such an infinitesimal percentage of Homo sapiens- in such a blip of time in the larger course of dealing between sharks and humans- may not understand what geological time really is. In this regard, the “revisionist” theories are like Geocentrism revisited. The theories have become like an ethical religion and sharks are a key battle state for Conservationists. While I agree with the goal, the means has no place in Science.

      I make these inferences dispassionately.

      Science must always be apprised of how easily the most tender or fervently held dogmas can result in a small bias becoming a major warp. As applied to sharks and instances of maritime disasters, so many of these fictions (e.g., “mistaken identity” theory) seem so very, very far from Science- especially the factual events that do not require analysis of speculative gibberish- how do I explain (?)…it feels like being lost at sea under a starry union that is equally fraudulent and wholly made up.

      As something streamlined, powerful- rises up.

      So that when you feel the bump of a bull shark in the night, alone and- out there, let’s be accurate: it is a scary thing because it is real. Because the truth of the matter asserted is that the only business the shark has, and it is biting into matter in order to exist.

      I say: true knowledge of Science:

      is bliss.

      To know that a shark has a secret inside is to know half the truth itself.

      Does Science not gain when the camera captures the images of the Chile shark capturing Heather Boswell?

      That is Science that statistics cannot tell.

      • dru permalink
        August 28, 2009 4:41 am

        The fact some men “never even saw a shark” [after the USS Indianapolis sank] is NOT evidence germane to the threshold inquiry, Georgie.

        Shark science has no business explaining what is not there.

        Sharks, blood…everywhere.

        – drudown

      • August 28, 2009 7:53 am

        “That is Science that statistics cannot tell.”

        We call those anecdotes, actually, and if, as you say, statistics cannot tell, then you cannot infer larger trends from them. Science doesn’t depend on hearsay and anecdotes.

      • dru permalink
        August 28, 2009 4:08 pm

        What the survivors of the USS Indianapolis testify to- what Heather Boswell testifies to- what any shark attack victim testifies to in the “court of public opinion”…is direct evidence. It is not hearsay in any meaningful sense of the word.

        With regards to statistics, how can you credibly contend that statistics of how many people are killed by coconuts (pure conjecture at best) or bees per year is relevant to shark behavior? What “larger trend” are you analyzing? Nothing that has to do with shark Science. A more relevant statistical analysis would entail how many Haitian immigrants were attacked and wholly/partially eaten by Tiger sharks after their respective boats capsize, i.e., placing them in an uncompromising position subject to the Tiger shark’s ecological niche. I seem to recall that on 5/28/08 rescuers found four partially eaten bodies (4 out of 4), with one being devoured as they watched. More recently, 63 out of 200 Haitians that went into the water on or around 7/26/09 went missing and many confirmed to be devoured by sharks.

        Yet that is simple Nature, amoral and persistent.

        Why not proffer Sociobiological shark theories that take the Scientific data into account? These maritime disasters place humans in the Tiger shark’s domain. What are the actual trends? One does not need to consult coconut mortality rates to reach the proper conclusion.

        With regards to Shark Week’s “anecdotes,” the eye witness testimony and video footage of Heather Boswell being eaten alive by a Great White shark is no such thing. Tell me, if that is not Scientific data of human/shark interaction…what is?

        Let me repeat the question once more.

        Why in the name of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck would any Scientist purporting to explain White shark and/or Tiger shark behavior not study the human/shark interaction profiled on the “Top Five Eaten Alive”, dispassionately? Isn’t it true that the very real plight of sharks is immaterial to making the proper Scientific inferences and conclusions?

        Placing an inorganic dummy or robot in a wetsuit is not going to yield any Scientific evidence to the inquiry. Regardless of its allegedpurpose, it is a Scientifc experiment that is gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence of how White sharks and/or Tiger sharks will respond to what is being placed in front of them, i.e., an inorganic dummy or robot in a wetsuit.

        In case you missed the “Top Five Eaten Alive” show, “Dr.” Ritter tried to actually conduct a legitimate scientific experiement to prove the prevailing theory here that “sharks are harmless and have no interest in preying on people.”

        His hypothesis was proved incorrect.

        Yes or No.

      • August 28, 2009 5:56 pm

        I think you may have become so enamored with your own argument that you’ve completely lost sight of what you’re trying to say.

        From someone who’s gotten used to having their statements misinterpreted, and realized that the responsibility for clarity falls to the writer, not the reader, allow me to tell you how I interpret your argument:

        ‘sharks eat people. if someone is in the water with a shark, they will be eaten. sharks are savage killing machines that do nothing but eat.’

        If that’s not what your trying to say, then try again, what exactly is your point?

        I’m ignoring your arguments about ‘Science’ or statistics. You clearly have no interest in understanding what either of those are, but would rather stick to your own warped definitions to prove a point. There are no trends in tiger shark attacks on humans, there are no trends in great white attacks on humans, there are only stochastic events which do not lead to any conclusions of general shark behavior.

      • dru permalink
        August 31, 2009 4:58 pm

        How ironic, SFS-

        I haven’t had time to provide a substantive rebuttal to your misrepresentations of my position and- lo and behold! there is another fatal shark attack in South Africa during the interim.

        The “trend” of many White shark attacks is what the evidence here shows: a hit-and-run predation strategy. Perceiving this trend in White shark behavior, I would hypothesize this fatality proves to be attributable to a White shark, even though in warmer waters. Tiger sharks will often return to consume the human prey item, though this hit-and-run dynamic is also present.

        At some level, if one purports to be a Scientist- isn’t it a little disingenuous to be constantly citing the statistcal infrequency of shark attacks without analyzing how the shark attacks on human beings are, in fact, a function of the shark’s ecological niche? Both White sharks and Tiger sharks are GENERALIST feeders. As an apex predator, there is very little that is off the menu. When the White shark or Tiger shark is observed attacking and consuming a less utilized prey item, it is a PREDATION event that requires no asterisk, i.e., there is nothing about the observed behavior that does not comport with the Scientifc evidence in the record.

        As such, when a White shark attacks and eats a petrel bird or a human being, it is misplaced for a shark Scientist to begin the analysis that a generalist feeder “mistakenly” realized a feeding opportunity on a tertiary prey item. That is the “misnomer,” i.e., to hypothesize that a predator observed to prey on an edible prey item did not do what it was just observed to have done. Is that not the “mistaken identity” theory espoused here? A shark that attacked and consumed a human being did not just do what it did. Tell me, what is the evolutionary advantage for a White shark or Tiger shark to expend energy to attack and consume a human by ‘mistake’? That is how silly the therory is- it makes no sense in terms of the law of Sociobiology that contains it.

        In contrast, imagine a hypothetical scenario where a human being was swimming in the open ocean following a stray Gray whale calf. If a pod of Killer Whales arrived on the scene and a Killer Whale breached- landing on the person and killing him or her- it would be patently improper to “villainize” Killer Whales or depict them as “man-eaters”, i.e., the cause of death was not an act of predation and there is virtually no evidence in the Scientific record of Killer Whales ever hunting and partially/wholly consuming human beings.

        Yet even a cursory review of the comments on this website tend to show that nearly everybody here seems to think that the Discovery Channel is “not being truthful” or somehow subverting the precepts of Science by airing shows like “Sharkbite Summer” or “Top Five Eaten Alive.”

        Will somebody please proffer the Scientifc evidence to support these positions?

        There is nothing “stochastic” about the arrival of Tiger sharks to maritime disasters in the Caribbean. Let me show how there is very much a Science to understanding shark attacks using this an exanmple.

        1. Observation and description of a phenomenon [Tiger sharks arriving on the scene of maritime disasters in the Caribbean and preying upon human beings].

        2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena [In order to realize the greatest amount of feeding opportunties and therefore pass along the most genes to the next generation, through the process of Evolution, the Tiger shark has developed a wide array of favorable traits- keen perceptive faculties that will lead the Tiger shark to the commotion, blood in the water and/or other stimuli that accompanies a maritime disaster in the Caribbean. Reduced to its essence, realizing feeding opportunties of helpless and weakened prey in these kind of incidents is part of the Tiger shark’s ecological niche- whether feeding on a sick whale that is dying or a group of human beings struggling to keep their heads above water].

        3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations [When maritime disasters occur in the Caribbean, the stimulus descibed will result in the same Tiger shark behavior observed in comparable contexts ].

        4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments [Although constrained by ethical limitations to perform ‘maritime disaster’ experiments with human subjects, future maritime disasters involving human beings (e.g., Haitians immigrants) will nonetheless happen in the Caribbean. The behavioral data from these will mimic any results from a controlled, Scientific experiemnt].

        If a Scientist had the means and inclination to recreate the “experiment” in the same waters twenty times, Tiger sharks would invariably arrive because that is a Tiger shark’s ecological niche.

        Leave the study of bees to Apiologists and bee keepers.

      • whysharksmatter permalink*
        August 31, 2009 11:38 pm

        Dru,

        I’m just joining in the discussion here because I was traveling when you initially started commenting. If you could summarize what you are trying to say in a few words instead of these page-and-a-half long nonsensical rants, others (including myself) could better participate.

  34. August 31, 2009 3:33 pm

    “Accuracy is a virtue, but fantasy brings liberation.”

    To Emmett Eshliman:

    You said it well and I agree with you 100%. Actually, it’s already “biting us on the ass”. There are many examples where the termination of the shark populations have had serious ecological and in some cases monetary consequences. Take the scallop industry in the Carolinas, which was wiped out because there were no more sharks and the cow nosed rays have multiplide heavily and eat the scallops before they can spawn. Or look at the many dead coral reefs, their ecological impact as well as the financial one, because of loss of tourists and divers. If we lose the sharks we’ll lose the oceans, and the oceans are our life support system. That’s a fact that we should all keep in mind, whether we like to swim with sharks or are afraid of them. We all know that sharks sometimes bite and a few times even kill people, but so do dogs and other animals. I believe it is fair to say, that of all the large animals in the world, sharks kill the smallest number of people. Bees kill 10 times more people in the US alone than sharks do world-wide. For some reason, however, shark bites are more dramatized than anything else. This is due to irresponsible exaggerations by Discovery Channel and many others in the media. The people who run Discovery know that, however, the short term profits are more important to them than the long term damage for this planet.
    Jupp Kerckerinck

  35. September 1, 2009 9:19 am

    To Whysharksmatter:
    Thank you, you have taken the words right out of my mouth. I don’t even understand most of this scientific mumbo-jumbo. As far as I understand, we are discussing if Discovery Channel is telling the truth or is knowingly telling lies about sharks for one reason only: making money.

    I am not a scientist but in plain language (forgive my English, it’s not my native tongue), I think it’s fair to say that sharks are endangered and instead of showing them as man-eaters and killers, Discovery should at least spend some time showing their positive side and talk about their importance in the very complex ecosystem of the oceans. What does “Blood in the Water” really mean? There is no scientific proof that human blood attracts sharks. Also, even though sharks bite and sometimes kill people, I don’t believe that as a rule, sharks eat people.

    I have been in the water many times with tiger sharks in the Bahamas and have seen “wild” tiger sharks and our known so-called “players”, but I have never been threatened by a single one of them. I have videotaped how a 14-foot tiger shark grabbed a friend of mine around his waste and immediately let go of him because she determined that he obviously was not food. My friend did not have a scratch on his body. But those things don’t interest the media. Instead, they portrait some guys as heroes who kill a tiger shark with a harpoon or those who stuff a dummy, in the shape of a human, with dead fish and film the sharks when they rip it apart because they want to get to the fish. If I would put dead fish into my dive suit, I’m sure some shark would love to try to get to them as well. That’s what most sharks do, they eat fish; humans are not on their menu.

    Coming back to the original question of this discussion: Is Shark Week truth or fiction, I think it is safe to say the latter. It is sad to see that the American media is more interested in ratings than in the truth. I have been in 9 talk shows on German TV, where I could tell millions of viewers how sharks really are. But it is more or less impossible to do the same in this country. I have seen the junk on Discovery, Animal Planet and on NBC, all fabricated stories about sharks. All not true but never the less they seem to be helping the ratings of the networks.

    • dru permalink
      September 1, 2009 4:38 pm

      “Thank you, you have taken the words right out of my mouth. I don’t even understand most of this scientific mumbo-jumbo.”

      Fair enough. But Science is Science. As poor as I am at algebra, it is silly for me to look at a calculation and say: ‘I don’t understand this mathematical mumbo-jumbo. Looks like a bunch of numbers and letters put together.’ Sociobiology is part of Science. Observable behavior (what sharks do) is part of Sociobiology and constitutes evidence in the Scientific record.

      I’m not here to post frequently, make friends, to take up to “take up the cause.” I’m here (figuratively through posts) to tell the truth about White, Tiger, Bull and Oceanic Whitetip shark behavior as it relates to human beings. Whether it comports with any person’s notion that sharks are “docile” and “harmless,” that pain is your baptism. The truth hurts, so they say.

      When one of the Russian students mauled by a Tiger shark (the other to death, her fiancé) (as recounted in “Sharkbite Summer”) off North Carolina in 2001 stated that the Tiger shark was “tearing off bits of our bodies” and “wanted to kill us”- she and her fiancé were undeniably a prey item to the Tiger shark that was eating them.

      Tell me, Jupp, what about that is fiction? Why is that not a Scientific fact and the assertion that “sharks are harmless”, sharks are “docile” and “a man-eating shark is a misnomer” not a fiction? It can’t be both.

      Either White, Tiger, Bull and Oceanic Whitetip sharks prey on people or they don’t. If the Discovery Channel shows document events of all these sharks feeding on people, surely you cannot credibly contend it is fiction. You might as well tell me that global warming or Evolution are not Scientific facts.

      “As far as I understand, we are discussing if Discovery Channel is telling the truth or is knowingly telling lies about sharks for one reason only: making money.”

      What does the profit-minded motive of Discovery Channel have to do with whether sharks prey on people, Jupp? I really don’t understand this point. Many of the dive operators that post here or on other oceanic sites are very quick to come to the shark’s “defense,” taking great airs for their “enlightened” worldview, as if, in the end, their interest in sharks is not similar to Discovery Channel’s: making money.

      What did Gracian write? “Everybody acts according to self-interest.”

      That is why, in my humble opinion at least, so many conservation-minded biologists and activists are dispensing bee sting statistics and coconut mortality statistics and “mistaken identity” theory when there is no relevance in the former and no Scientific evidence of the latter in the cases documented by the Discovery Channel. In other words, they believe that the surest way to protect sharks is to condition the public that all sharks have been “mislabeled” man-eaters and “new” studies show that these “old stereotypes” are the product of JAWS and ignorance. As I said in my first posts here, I am all for protecting sharks and am adamantly opposed to long-line fishing and especially trawling. But there is no reason to indoctrinate a “groupthink” about sharks that turns Sociobiology on its head.

      “I am not a scientist but in plain language (forgive my English, it’s not my native tongue), I think it’s fair to say that sharks are endangered and instead of showing them as man-eaters and killers, Discovery should at least spend some time showing their positive side and talk about their importance in the very complex ecosystem of the oceans.”

      Fair enough. But like Discovery Channel’s “profit-minded” motivations, whether or not sharks are on the brink of extinction is not relevant (1) to the issue of whether they prey on people and/or (2) to the Scientific study of how human predation is, in reality, a function of their ecological niche.

      “What does ‘Blood in the Water’ really mean? There is no scientific proof that human blood attracts sharks. Also, even though sharks bite and sometimes kill people, I don’t believe that as a rule, sharks eat people.”

      No scientific proof that human blood attracts sharks? Are you saying that sharks are attracted to blood from all other animals other than our’ blood? Human beings are animals. The fact so many sharks were attracted to the Indianapolis sinking (i.e., the human blood in the water) is data that disproves your theory.

      As for your latter argument, it is just subjective semantics. If person X burglarized your house and ___ more in a year, as they had every year, is it fair to say that the assertion that “person X is not a criminal” is false? If you break the law once, much less repeatedly, you are by definition a criminal. How is it not the same with sharks that eat people are “man-eaters”?

      “I have been in the water many times with tiger sharks in the Bahamas and have seen ‘wild’ tiger sharks and our known so-called ‘players’, but I have never been threatened by a single one of them. I have videotaped how a 14-foot tiger shark grabbed a friend of mine around his waste and immediately let go of him because she determined that he obviously was not food. My friend did not have a scratch on his body.”

      Somehow, I don’t think the aforementioned Russian couple would find your personal experience and opinion persuasive. Having personally dived with White sharks, reef sharks and nurse sharks- I have a sense that the latter two are harmless if left alone, but cannot say I feel the same at all with a White shark. They were looking at me as a known, edible prey item and, under certain circumstances not present in a cage dive with free tuna handouts (e.g., migrating in the open ocean) would perhaps eat me. But so would a brown bear that had insufficient fat stores before hibernation. It is the law of the jungle and I accept the respective risks by fishing in Katmai and going in the Pacific Ocean.

      “But those things don’t interest the media. Instead, they portrait some guys as heroes who kill a tiger shark with a harpoon…”

      Personally? I have no interest in fishing for any kind of shark and certainly do not believe a good shark is a dead shark. I see the media’s duty- and the Discovery Channel’s as well to be the same as a Scientist’s: to report the facts. White, Tiger, Bull and Oceanic Whitetip sharks occasionally realize a feeding opportunity at our expense. I make these inferences dispassionately. There is nothing about that makes sharks less worthy of our awe or in need of our protection.

      “[The media portrays] those who stuff a dummy, in the shape of a human, with dead fish and film the sharks when they rip it apart because they want to get to the fish. If I would put dead fish into my dive suit, I’m sure some shark would love to try to get to them as well. That’s what most sharks do, they eat fish; humans are not on their menu.”

      I agree with you 110%, that is hardly a scientific experiment that will prove anything other than sharks like to eat fish. But putting a wooden dummy or mechanical human in the water with sharks is just as silly and likewise proves nothing.

      “Coming back to the original question of this discussion: Is Shark Week truth or fiction, I think it is safe to say the latter.”

      Well, reasonable minds can disagree, Jupp.

      Just this: either the shark attacks on humans depicted therein happened, or they did not happen. Even if sensationalized for better ratings, it still happened and was predation.

      At some level, we need to come to terms that sharks have remained unchanged for so many, many, many millions and millions and millions of years because, for example, White, Tiger, Bull and Oceanic Whitetip shark behavior occupy a very unique ecological niche in the marine world- much like a crocodile’s in our rivers, swamps and lakes, etc. Among mammals, the hyena on the savannah seems to be the best analogy.

      Is it a fiction to call crocodiles and hyenas man-eaters? Surely you jest.

      “It is sad to see that the American media is more interested in ratings than in the truth. I have been in 9 talk shows on German TV, where I could tell millions of viewers how sharks really are. But it is more or less impossible to do the same in this country. I have seen the junk on Discovery, Animal Planet and on NBC, all fabricated stories about sharks. All not true but never the less they seem to be helping the ratings of the networks.”

      I’m sure you were helping your own business on TV just the same, Jupp. Do I think that makes the substance of what you say dubious? No.

      It is dubious because it does not comport with Science and Sociobiology.

      Last thing.

      Anyone here, including the editors, can look over what I have written on this thread and respond to it. Just cut and paste what you think is incorrect or a subversion of Science and provide your thoughts and analysis. As with everything, I wrote this off the top of my head and if it is too long or wordy, as Emerson once wrote, “we cannot lives of lives in explanation.”

      There is no need for me to write out what I am “really trying to say.” I have said a lot and think other people should likewise speak the truth about what sharks are. I have no loyalty to Discovery Channel. I have nothing against anyone making money either. I think people that blame Discovery Channel for why people are afraid of sharks do not know what White, Tiger, Bull and Oceanic Whitetip sharks really are.

      These are all frighteningly menacing predators towards their prey. I will never forget the sight of a White shark tearing into a tuna, coming at our cage. It took my breath away and I was left speechless, utterly in awe.

      My words like a small piece of straw-

      blown off into emptiness.

      – drudown

      • whysharksmatter permalink*
        September 1, 2009 10:48 pm

        Dru,

        In the year we’ve been running this site, we’ve had nearly 3,000 comments. The five longest are all from you. Learn to communicate clearly and concisely or people are just going to ignore you.

        It is not our policy to ban people that we disagree with from commenting, and I have no intention of banning you. Honestly, I don’t even understand what the hell you’re trying to say well enough to decide if I agree or disagree.

        You are not contributing to the discussion. You are posting angry, silly rants that make no sense. Clearly you care, otherwise you wouldn’t have taken the time to write half a novel in the comments section of this post. I’d love to see that enthusiasm actually channeled towards reasonable discussion.

      • dru permalink
        September 2, 2009 2:59 am

        Look, there is no need to be condescending. This is my last post. With that said, maybe there is someone out there who comes across this thread that is willing to write, procure or share a substantive analysis of the phenomena of human/shark interaction based on observable data that support the propositions that are being espoused. As SFS aptly notes, there is no such thing as an “argument from authority.” I don’t purport to know everything about sharks.

        But I can substatiate my theory that human beings are a known, edible tertiary prey item of White, Tiger, Bull and Oceanic Whitetip sharks because the Scientific record proves it and it coincides with their ecological niche. Period.

        The theories espoused here- indeed, a major justification esposed to “boycott” Shark Week is that it is promulgating falsehoods and misrepresenting the shark’s true nature by its programming. There are people linking your article, claiming that JAWS and TV are the reason why people hate sharks.

        I think that is a disservice to the integrity of Science.

        I think people that cite statistical infrequency of a known phenomena (human predation) to disprove that phenomena might as well tell me that the earth is the center of the universe.

        This is just an open invitation to anyone to provide intelligent clarification- in short, on why educated people are dispensing falsehoods and misnomers about dangerous sharks under the auspices of pro-conservation when there is no rational basis for the premise. I don’t need to dumb it down any more than that.

        If anyone has cards to put on the table, skin that Smoke Wagon.

        Otherwise, “educate yourself.”

        Just this: the world is in a state that requires us to see things as they are and Science may be our last hope. Belive me, I spend a lot more time writing about politics and law than sharks.

        I am just a streamlined shape, I saw what was on the surface, yet it was no case of mistaken identity.

        And so the theories are now like a mortally wounded seal at the Farallones.

        And I will resume my patrol in much deeper waters, silently.

        Be good.

        – drudown

  36. September 2, 2009 8:35 am

    Dru,
    what can I say? I think whatever it is, you would have a long, hard to understand answer. So, I just tell you that, in my oopinion, Whysharksmatter answered you in an easy to understand and eloquent way and there is nothing I would like to add to that.
    I don’t know where you are coming from. You sound like a very frustrated scientist.

Trackbacks

  1. Interview with Discovery Channel Executive Paul Gasek | Adobe Tutorials
  2. College Interview with Discovery Channel Executive Paul Gasek | India Colleges
  3. Biochemical Soul » Mostly Expected Rhetoric from a Discovery Channel Exec
  4. Discovery Channel: Friend or Foe of Sharks? | Deep Sea News
  5. Global Voices Online » Global: The push to boycott Shark Week
  6. Global: The push to boycott Shark Week :: Elites TV
  7. Global Voices in het Nederlands » Wereldwijd: Pogingen om Shark Week te boycotten
  8. Global Voices in het Nederlands » Wereldwijd: Actie om Shark Week te boycotten
  9. Global Voices in Italiano » Controversie (e boicottaggio) per la Shark Week del Discovery Channel
  10. The push to boycott Shark Week « storypress
  11. OH, FOR THE LOVE OF SCIENCE! » Blog Archive » Carnival of the Blue #27: The Vacation Edition

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    The Southern Fried Scientist

    Andrew is a graduate student in North Carolina studying deep sea biology. When not in the lab, he spends his time out on the water, usually swearing at his boat while simultaneously sacrificing some important tool to Poseidon in a desperate attempt to make the motor start. That is, assuming he can get his truck running long enough to actually put the boat in the water. He enjoys long walks on the beach, by necessity. Follow him on Twitter @SFriedScientist.


    WhySharksMatter


    David is a graduate student in South Carolina studying shark conservation. He is the author of the upcoming book “Why Sharks Matter: Using New Environmentalism to Show The Economic And Ecological Importance of Sharks, The Threats They Face, and How You Can Help”. His time is divided between educating the public about sharks, spending days at a time at sea playing with sharks, and eating horribly unhealthy foods. Follow him on Twitter @WhySharksMatter.


    bluegrass blue crab


    Amy is a graduate student in North Carolina studying local ecological knowledge within the blue crab fishery. She spends half her life studying the most charismatic of organisms - humans - and the estuaries on which they depend. While not contemplating grand social theories, she enjoys a good jam session and watching sunsets over the estuary. Follow her on Twitter @bgrassbluecrab.

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