Media outlets reporting false shark attack fail to follow up with the true story

It’s been over a week since an incident involving an 11-year-old girl being bitten by a bluefish was falsely reported as a shark attack by multiple media outlets. Within less than 24 hours after the “story” broke, an AFP release revealed that “maritime experts later concluded that the bite suffered by the girl was too small to have been caused by a shark and was compatible instead with the marks that would be left by a bluefish.”

False accusations against a blue shark persist.
False accusations against a blue shark persist.

While it’s not uncommon for details of breaking news to be sketchy, if not entirely inaccurate, most media outlets tend to follow-up on a story when it turns out the story has been falsely or incorrectly reported. However, that doesn’t appear to be the case with the following publications:

All three of these publications ran stories reporting a shark attack caused by a blue shark, yet none of them have any follow-up story clarifying that no such shark attack occurred, nor that the injured girl was bitten by a bluefish. It should be pointed out that The Daily Mail and The Daily Star both appear to be tabloid-style “news.” However, The Leader looks to be a “legitimate” news source. In addition to the three sources above, The Barcelona Reporter, ran a sensationalized version of the story, Blue shark bites girl in Spain, nearly severs foot, off Tarragona beach. To The Barcelona Reporter’s credit, they did add a paragraph at the end of their story mentioning that it was later concluded that the bite was consistent with a bluefish bite, but they didn’t change the headline of the story nor did they remove the content in the story claiming that a blue shark almost severed the girl’s foot.

While most of the publications that ran with this story seem to be far-from-reliable sources of news, the story and lack of follow-up illustrate how sensationalism and fear-mongering seem to be more attractive “news” than actually reporting the facts, whenever a shark is involved (or not involved, at all, in this instance).


  1. Sharky says:

    I suppose you consider the ISAF as a relable source of shark attack info, being you do have a link to their site.

    In 2008 the ISAF reported only 4 shark attack deaths worldwide.

    What happened to Markus Groth killed while photographing sharks in the Bahamas.

    What about Brian Guest killed by a shark only yards from shore in Australia.

    The medical examiners or government inquest into these deaths state the people were killed by sharks. The ISAF doesn’t mention them.

  2. TheDorsalFin says:

    I have a link to the ISAF, because it’s the only source of worldwide data that I’ve found to be readily available, if you know of some more reliable sources of attack data and stats, feel free to pass them along, and I’ll add them to the links. Thanks.

    Do you have any idea why Groh and and Guest’s deaths were not reported? I’m pretty familiar with the Groh case, which by all accounts was certainly a bull shark attack. As for Guest’s attack, while the species was never identified, it seemed like a clear-cut case of a shark attack, as well.

  3. Sharky says:

    I don’t want to say this incident wasn’t a bluefish bite, but remember it is tourist season in Spain right now. The town where this incident took place does rely on tourist and we know what the word shark does for tourism.

    About two years ago this same area had a shark incident which as you will see in the video caused a bunch of commotion for a tiny tourist town. If it was a shark do you think government officials are going to say shark?

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