Rethink the Shark

Sharks have a long and impressive lineage.  Ancient sharks were cruising the ocean 400 million year ago- long before dinosaurs roamed on land.  Relatives of the great white like the giant megatooth evolved more than 20 million years ago.  But today, sharks are threatened from a different predator.

Every year, humans kill an estimated 70 million sharks. The threats we pose are many. By-catch: the accidental killing of sharks in fishing gear intended for other species. Illegal poaching and hunting: selling shark fins for soup and sportfishing for shark-jaw trophies. Nets: placed along coastlines to keep sharks away from beaches. It turns out that sharks have more reason to fear humans than the other way around. 

So, what poses a greater threat to humans--sharks or toasters? The creators of this public service announcement try to put the human fear of shark attacks in perspective.

Discover more about shark's biology, habitat, and status in the Great White Shark section, and check out the Smithsonian Ocean Portal's Top 5 Reasons you should Revere, Not Fear, the Shark.

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Sharks may look big and scary but they have no bad intensions the way we humans swim and splash to a hungry shark looks like a fishy meal.I know that millions of grownups think that sharks harm peole on perpouse I am only nine years old and I know what the sharks do is not what they think it is they need to eat as well as we do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jayla G. FL,USA

Submitted by The Ocean Portal Team on

Thanks for your comment, Mike! You make a good point about frequency of exposure to a potential hazard (whether sharks or toasters) being important in calculating your risk. But the basic point remains the same: out of the millions of people who do visit the beach and swim in the ocean every year, a very, very small number of them are attacked or killed by sharks. For any swimmer in the ocean, the risk of being attached is extremely low.

As you mention, there are lots of other comparisons that can be made to put the situation into perspective - including stats on injuries and deaths during other water- and beach-related activities, such as boating. You can find several other measures of relative risk in the International Shark Attack Files, maintained by the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

The only problem with this comparison is the fact that millions more people use toasters mor than they go into the ocean to swim. I don't know the exact numners, but I would assume that 5 out of 10 people use a toaster at least once a week if not more. While I don't think that anywhere near that amount swim in the Ocean. I am a lifeguard and I do understand that people should not be so terrified to swim in the Ocean, and your chances of being attacked by a Shark is extremely rare and you probably have a better chance of being struck by lightning. Mike

Submitted by The Ocean Portal Team on

Great, thank you! Our friends at Save Our Seas do a great job making videos that help us understand sharks--and human encounters with them--better.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

I thought that this was totally understandable