While I enjoy covering and comparing topics that apply to my profession most often, recent news of a significant rise in shark attacks in North Carolina made me realize that the United States and South Africa share a similarity in sharks and the unfortunate fears that come with them. Since the movie Jaws premiered, people across the world have experienced increased fears for an animal we still know relatively little about. In the decades since the film’s opening, the world’s view towards the animal continues to confuse and fear those in and out of the murky waters they swim.
With cultures that embrace recreational ocean activities, with waters primed for sharks, humans and sharks often intersect in both nations–though the likelihood of an attack remains infinitesimal.
Since around 1900, South Africa experienced some 554 shark attacks compared to the United States’ 1,999. Both countries have numerous locations where sharks are known to attack. In South Africa some examples are along the east and west Capes while America’s attacks frequently occur in Florida, Hawaii and the Carolinas.
However, when it comes to sharks it appears the nations vary to some degree. In South Africa, a quick search for shark diving tours produces ample results. While the U.S. certainly boasts its own diving tours, the numbers appear much less in comparison. By channeling the intrigue and fear of sharks, businesses have blossomed, though frightening risks do arise.
Furthermore, public sentiment–and possible media heightening–continues to fear sharks in America, while South Africans seem to see the relationship more as a shared ecosystem where attacks may occur. Though that may be explained by the number of attacks, it should be noted that South Africa is the only location on Earth where Great Whites breach ocean waters at up to ten feet. It may not balance the number of attacks, but the sight of a breaching Great White is not only majestic but equally terrifying.
While efforts to educate the public on sharks has helped repopulate numbers to a degree, June’s uptick in attacks across the world may cause the latest hurdle in the animal’s preservation. This remains an issue, though animals like puff adders, rhinos and crocodiles account for a much larger portion of attacks in South Africa. Similarly so, deer account for a massive amount of incidents in America compared to sharks, yet the fear is not equal.