Shark attacks to be rebranded as ‘negative encounters’ to show more understanding for predators

Shark attacks are to be rebranded as "negative encounters" or "interactions" in an attempt to change the predators’ image as a "man-eating monster."

Officials in parts of Australia will also refer to "bites," rather than "attacks," as they seek to avoid scaring people away from public beaches.

The move comes despite a rise in fatal shark attacks around the world last year, including a series of deaths in Australian waters.

A Queensland official told a recent shark conference the state would be using the term "bites," the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

And the Queensland "SharkSmart" information website tells people how to "minimise your risk of a negative encounter with a shark."

In New South Wales the Department of Primary Industries, which is responsible for fisheries and aquaculture, has moved away from the term "attacks" in its official shark reports, referring instead to "incidents" or "interactions."

A spokesman said: [We are] respectful that each incident is best described by the individual involved."

Pro-shark campaigners welcomed the changes in terminology, saying it reflected that the majority of incidents did not result in injury.

Dr Christopher Pepin-Neff, a shark researcher at the University of Sydney, said: "’Shark attack’ is a lie."

He said that until the 1930s they had been called "shark accidents."

A great white shark leaps out of the water off South Africa

Credit: EPA

Leonardo Guida, a researcher at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the change would help dispel "inherent assumptions that sharks are ravenous, mindless man-eating monsters."

He told the Sydney Morning Herald it would "help improve the public’s understanding of sharks."

There were 10 unprovoked fatal shark attacks globally in 2020, according to the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida.

The annual average for the previous five years was four deaths.

In 2020 at least six of the deaths happened in Australia, with three in the United States.

According to the report there were 57 unprovoked shark attacks on people last year around the world.

A woman protests against a shark cull in Australia in 2014

Credit: Getty

Cooper Allen, an Australian surfer who suffered severe leg wounds after a shark attack, told the Sydney Morning Herald: "I tell people ‘I had a bit of run-in with a man in a grey suit.’"

In November a 55-year-old bodyboarder was killed in a shark attack at Cable Beach in Western Australia.

Police officers said the shark "lingered close to the shore for almost half an hour after the attack" and they shot at it.

Scientists have suggested that the rise in fatal attacks in Australia is linked to warming sea waters due to climate change, declining fish supplies, and increased internal tourism in the country during the pandemic.
 

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