Shark Attack in J-Bay, South Africa

I’m going to start by posting the link, some of you may wish to read the story first if you haven’t already: Click Here for the story.

First off, before I get into saying the things that people might perceive as insensitive, loss of life like this is absolutely tragic.  My heart goes out to his family, I’m sure he was a nice man and has died too young.

That being said, when you enter the water, especially where there are top predators such as white sharks, there is a certain risk level.  While these animals are not out for us, and do not see humans as prey, sometimes misidentifications happen.  Here’s a stat that I used to tell all of my clients when I worked with White Sharks in South Africa:  you are more likely to get killed by a vending machine or a toaster then by a shark (not just a White Shark, any species).  You’re also more likely to get bit by a human on the streets of New York than by a shark (Not too surprising when you really think about it).

I don’t know what the conditions were like that day, but I know there were many days while I was in SA that the inshore area had really, really poor viz. Pair that with the fact that sharks, being the amazing creatures they are, don’t actually need to see you to know that you’re there.  Between their lateral lines and ampullae of lorenzini (click on them to read what they are) they can sense things in the water without using their eyes, and the way a shark tests to see if something is food is to bite it (no, they don’t have hands like us).  You hear of people getting BITTEN by sharks (as rare as it is) you don’t hear of people being EATEN.  They don’t like us, we must not taste good.

Now… for the people who think that the solution is to kill off sharks, or do some sort of Jaws style shark hunt….It’s absolutely asinine and stupid.  If you really believe that is the way to go … you’ve lost your shit.

Let’s put to the side the whole thing that sharks don’t really care for us, and shark attacks don’t happen very often.  Let’s even throw out my love for them, because this is based off of fact, not my personal feelings.

Come on, he's cute!

Come on, he’s cute!

Sharks are an integral part of the ecosystem (what we call a “Keystone Species“).  They help keep the system in check, and help prevent other populations from exploding.  This is where I like to give an example to prove my point… ahem.

Great White Sharks… they eat seals (when they get large enough they do).  By eating seals, they help keep this population in check.  If we removed the sharks, their main predator is gone, the seal population now explodes.  Now everything that the seals feed on suffer drastically (are you seeing where I’m going with this?).  You remove the top predator and the entire ecosyetem is affected.

Penguins are cute aren’t they?  The way they waddle around and shit?  Keep that in mind while you read the next part.

In South Africa there is a magical place called Gansbaai, it is home to some of the best White Shark action in the world.  What draws them there?  Geyser Rock… filled with seals!  Less than a football field away from Geyser Rock is Dyer Island, home of some adorable penguins.  Now Geyser Rock can only hold so many seals, and when there is too many… they move over to Dyer Island.  When that happens, those adorable waddling penguins get eaten.  Long story short, save the Penguins by saving the sharks.

I think that sums up my feelings on that … Good day and love sharks!



About mdnichol87

Marine Biologist studying towards a Master's in Conservation and Biodiversity at the University of Exeter.
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