Give JAWS a break
It has now been more than 40 years since JAWS was first shown on the big screen and people still connect their fear about sharks with the movie creation. I don’t know how many times I have heard this to be the main reason why someone is afraid of sharks. If such an animal truly existed, wouldn’t we have heard it by now? Granted, Spielberg did a terrific job of creating the super monster–and I like watching JAWS once in a while–but believing that there are white sharks out there that reflect that creation, is ridiculous.
But, living close to Pensacola Beach, nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to the “gentlemen in grey suits.” This conundrum can’t continue any longer if we want to protect sharks in general, white sharks in particular, and that there is nothing we have to fear of them. We have to understand that sharks can be interacted with like any other large animal. But, when it comes to white sharks, it is easier said than done. In an ideal world I would go and show it but, no matter where these animals are, some eco-tourism of shark watchers exists, it is a “cage only” affair and that pisses me off. We are allowed to walk around animal parks etc. but not being in the water without protection when it comes to white sharks is mind-boggling. Where is the logic here? If we would have hundreds of incidents with white sharks per year, I would agree on some rules when bringing in white sharks. However, there are not hundreds of incidents annually with these sharks but maybe 20 or 30, and only a small fraction ends fatal. That alone should be reason enough to lift the “cage only” law.
How do we want to tackle JAWS and its outreach when we are not allowed to freely interact with them and thus show that they are much more timid than large, land predators? I suppose the only way around this is to break the law, attract them and do so as long as one is not caught. Fast forward now, and assume you get caught, what would be the penalty for interacting with a “cage only” animal? I don’t know, but I do know that any defense attorney would have a field day with it. Just imagine: the prosecutor’s case would be to make me guilty of being in the water with a shark that I am not allowed to be with without steel protection. This would be funny, “… Mr Ritter, do you deny of having interacted with a white shark without the protection of a steel cage…? Hilarious, right! So my attorney would then highlight that I just happened to be there where a white shark showed up. Of course, the prosecutor would try to throw this argument out of court by mentioning that I used bait. “… Yes, I used bait, but I just wanted to attract some small reef sharks, witch is not against the law…” You see where I am going with this? If I change my approach on how to attract white sharks, I would be allowed to do so by law. So my way of freely interacting with white sharks is by not applying for a license, telling my customers (which would be referred to as research supporters) that their charges are not for services rendered but to help with research, tips and gas money, then highlight that all we do is interact with smaller sharks. Differently put, the only way to interact with white sharks, and change the JAWS image down the road, is by letting people know that we do not attract white sharks but look for smaller ones. Have you ever heard of any animal to be protected where you consciously pretend to observe other species than the one in question? I have not!