Rescues at sea are far-more dramatic in “shark-infested” waters

Last week, a story about 4 shark fishermen being rescued from “shark-infested” waters in New York was featured at various media outlets.

The charter boat that the fishermen were aboard began taking on water, and the men sent out a distress call. Fortunately, two off-duty Marine Bureau officers heard the distress call, responded to the scene, and were able to rescue the fishermen within minutes of their boat sinking.

Fox 5 News in New York ran a segment on this story, in which the threat of shark attacks was strongly emphasized. The segment also features obligatory references to Jaws.

While an article, featured at The Long Island Press, does mention the risk of the fishermen being dragged under along with the sinking boat, the threat of being in “shark-infested” waters seems to get more attention in the article. Granted, the men had been chumming the area and had caught a mako prior to the boat sinking, which would indicate a shark presence (or at least a former presence). However, the story seems to play on the common misconception that people being in the water where sharks are present is going to result in a shark attack. The article is accompanied by a photo of a great white shark (which appears to have been taken at Guadalupe), despite no reports of any white sharks being in the area.

The author, Michael M. Martino Jr. defends the use of the white shark photo in the comments section, claiming that, “a dramatic photo for a dramatic story never hurt anyone.” While I agree that the story and the photo are both dramatic in their own rights, I would argue that associating a great white or any other sharks as being the primary threat to these men is using sensationalism to “sell” the story. Personally, I find the story of the dramatic rescue of four men from a sinking ship to be sensational on its own merit, even without playing on the general public’s fear of shark attacks.

Other reports on this story also appeared at with a somewhat subdued report of the shark threat.

Kudos to Marine Bureau Officers Michael Larmony and Michael Spagnuolo for their rescue efforts!

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