In a prime-example of media sensationalism, The Korean Times is reporting in the article, Vacationers Warned After Sharks Spotted, that two hammerheads were spotted off the coast of Tongyoung, South Gyeongsang Province “not far from” Mondol Beach. The article quotes a researcher of the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute as saying, “the hammerhead shark is a violent and dangerous species,” and “Our beaches are no longer safe from sharks.”
According to the International Shark Attack File, hammerhead sharks are responsible for ZERO fatal shark attacks on humans at beaches. The only fatal attack listed as being associated with a hammerhead, in the ISAF statistics, is listed as having occurred during an “air-sea disaster.” While one could argue that any wild animal has the potential to be “violent and dangerous,” the threat posed by hammerhead sharks to beach-goers is relatively minimal. It’s surprising (and disappointing) to see someone associated with a marine research institute classifying hammerhead sharks as a “violent and dangerous” species. I guess overplaying the threat of a presence of sharks in their natural habitat makes for a more newsworthy story.
After the beach was evacuated, a hammerhead was later caught. The article also mentions that in May a blue shark was caught near Tongyoung and two great white sharks were caught near Mukho port in February and March, respectively. The IUCN lists great white sharks as “globally Vulnerable to extinction” and blue sharks as “Near Threatened.” The article does not mention what kind of hammerhead was caught, so it’s hard to pin down where that animal falls on the IUCN red list. While many countries have laws protecting great white sharks due to the threatened status, South Korea does not.