Why being afraid when a shark approaches

by Dr. Erich Ritter
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Most people try to get out of the water as quick as possible, when a shark is in close vicinity of them. I can understand that to some degree but how irrational some of the folks get when this situation occurs is still mind blowing. 

What is it that the presence of a shark, even a small one, can eliminate rational thinking? Well, part of it is that we are conditioned to fear sharks. This occurs when we are quite young due to exposure to all the media out there. We learn to fear an animal that is statistically speaking the most harmless one of all the top and super predators out there. But, statistics is not what comes to mind when a shark approaches but the "why me?" So since sharks are not dangerous, harmless, would be the correct term. How can we change this image? The only way is to understand what is happening when we face a shark, and then work against it. Fear comes from not knowing how to interpret a situation, not knowing what we get into, and most importantly not knowing what to do. 

Overall, we believe that we are not in control of the situation, and feel that all we can do is wait and let "it" happen. We know how to interpret a situation, what to look for when a shark approaches, how to weigh its behavior pattern etc. but why is the general public not aware of it? Well, partially because the general media does not want to destroy the "media monster," they want to keep the "scariness" to these animals alive but there is also the likelihood that none of these producers and journalists are truly aware that we know how to deal and interact with these animals. A little digging on the internet would go a long way. So we have to ask: does the media really want to bury JAWS? No. The media thrives of things that go wrong, that scare us, that keep us on our toes... It is a sad reality how the media works. Instead of helping to educate, it tosses more oil into the fire, at least when it comes to sharks. This leaves a person pretty much on their own to dig, learn and understand. The good thing is that the truth is at least out there; the bad thing is that it is often buried under a lot of wrongful assumptions. The golden rule seems to write the right keywords, and then go from there.

As already highlighted fear among sharks comes from not knowing, not being able to predict, or know what has to happen should a particular situation arise. For that very reason, we created the shark-human interaction concept ADORE-SANE whose sole purpose is to make a shark encounter or interaction understood. What factors come into play, what to look for, how to weigh different influences and others. But, even if one is not aware of this concept and faces a shark without any knowledge there is still no danger involved. There is hardly a case known where a beachgoer saw the shark coming and then was bitten. I would have to dig very hard in my more than 4000 incidents with sharks to find a case where a person was bitten just by "being there." 

So all there is to remember before entering the water is that any potential encounter with a shark will lead to an outcome that is not overshadowed by a bite.

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