Jaws Has Feelings Too

The Charger Bulletin

By: Gabby Nowicki

Contributig Writer

It’s been 39 years since the debut of Steven Spielberg’s nail biting thriller Jaws. The movie starred one massive great white shark haunting the waters of New England. Back then, little was known about great whites or sharks in general. The movie, based off a novel, ignited a new fear in many people across the world. I, too, admittedly, was terrified after watching it and refused to go to the beach that summer.

While the movie had sparked a new era in film and directing, it also brought forward a fear that many people kept in the back of their minds when entering deep waters. Yes, this is just a fictional story of a man-eating demon shark, but it is not abnormal to hear stories of people dying from shark attacks. The movie Jaws triggered negative stereotypes of sharks and their behaviors. People became more paranoid in the ocean and felt that it was best to kill all and any sharks as they could become a real life “Jaws.” It wasn’t until more discoveries were made about sharks and their lifestyles that helped scientists and conservationists start to convince people that they are not the demons that they are often portrayed as.

Shark Week on the Discovery Channel helped spread the truth about sharks and allow people to truly learn their nature. I, included, started to realize their majesty and pure magnificence. Every August, I would watch the programs for the duration of the week and open my mind up to the beauty of each and every shark. As each year passed, my knowledge and respect for this animal grew and I became more and more passionate about their conservation. In the past couple of years, I have read multiple articles on shark finning and the useless killing of all different shark species. Shark finning is done mostly in Asian countries that net sharks and cut off their fins. The sharks are then dumped back into the ocean, left to die or be eaten by other sea creatures. The people who do this only consume the fin, which is typically used as a delicacy in soup.

More recently, the Western Australian government has put aside millions of dollars for what is known as “shark culling.” According to the New York Times, the government set forth the “catch and kill” policy due to seven fatal attacks that happened within the past three years. Hunters are granted permission to catch large bull, tiger and great white sharks and kill them, usually with a gun, and then dump them back into the ocean. The cull is supposed to end in April, but let’s hope that it will not last past February.

I believe this to be, by far, one the most underdeveloped, primitive ideas that I have read about in a while. Sharks have been surviving and roaming the Earth’s oceans for far longer than any of our primitive cousins have. They continue to evolve and adapt, streamlined and perfect for their harsh oceanic environment. For over 450 million years they have been living in the oceans and it really bothers me that we, as the human race, assume that we own everything on this planet. The ocean is NOT a swimming pool. It is a habitat for billions of species that were living in peace before we had to leave our huge footprint. Sharks are not “man-eating machines.” They do not think to themselves, “Mmh I’m in the mood for human, let me go swim along shorelines to get my dinner.” They live a simple life of swimming, eating, and reproducing. When we enter the water, we are entering THEIR domain. We are intruding THEIR home.

This whole “culling” idea is so unbelievably stupid. There is no scientific evidence that murdering innocent sharks will stop shark attacks. In fact, great white sharks have been at a high risk of extinction since 1996 and tiger and bull sharks are slowly approaching that status as well.

A major concept that many people are not aware of is that when sharks go extinct…so do the oceans. Because they are the top predators of the ocean, once they disappear, other more destructive species will rise in numbers and cause the depletion of more significant, supportive species. The entire oceanic ecosystem will be out of balance, which can significantly impact us.

According to National Geographic, sharks surprisingly keep in check most of our food sources (from the ocean), produce more oxygen than a rainforest, and remove many manmade toxins from the atmosphere. They keep the ocean in check, and without them, most bodies of water would become a toxic environment. Considering the ocean makes up 60 percent of the Earth, this outcome would greatly impact us and potentially be our downfall. Slaughtering sharks for the pure reason to “protect” humans is selfish. The state premier of Western Australia stated, “I know that the many West Australians who love to use the ocean — divers, surfers, swimmers and their families — want increased protection from dangerous sharks.” This makes no sense. Many Australians that do these activities have vocalized that they understand the risks they take when entering the ocean. They respect sharks and agree that they are vital to the ocean.

I am not saying not to ever enter the ocean. I love the water, but there are ways to make everyone happy. Swimming during sharks prime feeding time; sunrise and sunset, will increase your chance of interacting with one. Wearing shiny jewelry or a swimsuit can confuse them into thinking a swimmer is a seal or fish. Over half of the attacks that occur are simply cases of mistaken identity. Because sharks have such poor eyesight, they use their mouth to touch. Unfortunately for us, most of the time a “test feel” can be fatal.

Orcas (killer whales) are just as dangerous as a great white shark, maybe even more, and yet we swim with them! We put them in tanks and train them! This is a whole other topic, but my point is that just because sharks do not have the same mental capability as a killer whale does, does not mean that they are any more of a threat to humans.

Thousands of humans get attacked by snakes, but we don’t jump to murder all snakes, do we? As humans, we are so territorial and feel the need to remove anything that we fear or feel threatened by. There are so many other threats in Australia other than shark attacks— Obesity kills 25,000 a year, smoking, 10,000, alcohol, 1,600, drowning, 290, lightning, 10, and sharks only 2.

There’s no question that sharks should be feared. But amongst that fear, should be admiration and curiosity, and most importantly, respect. Sharks are killing machines—but wouldn’t you consider the human race a killing machine too?

The shark image needs a makeover. Slowly but surely we are opening our minds up to the beauty that comes with the shark species. Scientists, celebrities, conservationists and Average Joes are learning of this madness and they are not happy. Even Western Australians’ are outraged; 82% of Australians disagree with the cull. On Feb. 1, thousands of Australians came out and rallied on the beaches, holding signs and wearing shark costumes to support sharks and their lives.

Sharks don’t scare me. Humans do. End the cull.