Attack of the Shark Lobby

How you look at things.
Sept. 7 2001 3:00 AM

Attack of the Shark Lobby

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In other words, blame the victim. A shark "must make quick decisions and rapid movements to capture its traditional food items," says the ISAF. "When these difficult physical conditions are considered in conjunction with provocative human appearance and activities associated with aquatic recreation (splashing, shiny jewelry, contrasting colored swimsuits, contrasting tanning, especially involving the soles of the feet), it is not surprising that sharks might occasionally misinterpret a human for its normal prey." If you tan, splash, or wear a bright bikini, you're asking for it.

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5. The problem isn't an increase in sharks. It's an increase in people. According to ISAF Director George Burgess, shark attack "is largely motivated by the number of people in the water." Following this logic, Burgess and his colleagues argue that the only reason sharks are biting more people is that more people are available. Again, why is this comforting? "Shark attacks will drop off precipitously now that Labor Day has come, because there will be less human flesh in the water to be bitten," the Times predicts dismissively. How this prediction vindicates the Times, rather than the shark-fearing people it ridicules, remains a mystery.

6. We're more dangerous to sharks than they are to us. The real story is "not shark bites man, but man bites shark," says Burgess. "Humans have been killing off 100 million individual sharks per year by overfishing. Meanwhile, sharks are killing eight humans per year." So what? We're not sharks. We're humans. We're trying to figure out whether to get in the water. Shark-fishing statistics don't help us. Do you object to that cold calculus? Do you want to talk about responsibility? Then stop excusing every shark that maims a child while "trying to make a living."

Fortunately for the shark lobby, relief is on the way: Bears are invading towns in New Mexico. Last month, one bear mauled an old woman to death; another chased three boys and bit one; a third wounded a pair of Boy Scouts. Don't worry. It's just coincidence. The poor bears are unusually hungry this year, and anyway, they're just following their instincts. Trust me. I heard it from the bear lobby.