I’ll admit that Popular Mechanics isn’t really a media outlet where I would expect to find an objective piece about sharks, but today, two shark-related articles showed up on their website.
Marine Biologist Debunks Common Misconceptions About Sharks is a Q&A session between Popular Mechanics reporter, Erin McCarthy, and Andy Dehart of the National Aquarium. The session deals with misplaced fears, misconceptions about shark diets, and, of course, the declining numbers of sharks worldwide. One encouraging note is that Dehart says, “that the general public is more and more educated about sharks and shark issues.”
The second article, Survive Anything: How to Escape a Shark Attack, discusses how to avoid and escape a shark attack, as unlikely as one may be. The article does mention that there “are approximately 40 shark attacks” in the waters surrounding the U.S. each year. However, I wish it would have mentioned that percentage of those that are serious or fatal. Even though 40 attacks a year, for the entire U.S. coastal areas is still a relatively minuscule number, I think there are people who see the words “shark attack” and automatically assume a fatal attack. The article does go on to mention that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to be involved in a shark attack, though. As for the survival tactics, which are offered by George Buress, Director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, they can be broken down into three simple rules…
- Be aware of and recognize the signs of aggressive shark behavior. (The article lists hunched back, lowered pectoral fins, erratic swimming, and yawning but fails to mention that these behaviors are not universal to all sharks.)
- If you see a shark displaying signs of aggression leave the area “quickly but smoothly” while maintaining visual contact with the shark.
- In the rare event that an attack does occur, fight back. (The article mentions the “classic” nose punch as a good defense to buy time to get out of the water.)
All-in-all, the Popular Mechanics articles remain fairly objective and offer up some worthwhile general information to the reader.