I Realize That I Haven’t Said Enough About Sharks
After reading WhyAmIHere’s abysmal and misleading shark comment in this week’s Smokies, I realized that there is a lot of misinformation out there about these velociraptors of the sea. Where this comes from is so-called experts who live within twenty miles of the sea and occasionally drop their toe in the water acting like they’re ichthyologists without having paid their dues. Before I get to the actual meat of this controversy, perhaps I should list my credentials. I have lived in South Florida since 1967 (nearly half my life); I have a Bachelors Degree in Finance from the University of Miami—the top Marine Biology school in the country (however that’s measured); and I have such a healthy respect for sharks that it manifests itself in abject irrational fear. Naturally, when I see a layman make a statement like the one below, I guffaw and guffaw and guffaw:
Now sharks are something I know a little about. They are simpleminded. If they see you their thought process goes something like this:
What is that?
I don’t know but can I eat it? (The answer to this question is mostly determined by size, yours and the shark’s, with the shark’s being more important.)
Will it hurt me if I try to eat it? (See the size discussion above. Also, sea creatures do not want to be wounded because it will likely result in death. There are no fish hospitals.)
Well if I am not going to eat it, should I hang around and see if it eats anything that I can get a piece of?
All this being said, I still love seeing sharks, even though it raises the pulse. Or maybe because.
I’m not just here to make Why look foolish. A lot of people have real concerns about being eaten by sharks. That’s why I’ve created a new list of Frequently Asked Questions and their frequent answers:
Q. Most things in nature have good and bad qualities; shouldn’t this also be true of sharks?
A. First of all, nature is mostly full of bad things, so you fucked up on your premise. Sharks are no exception. The best that I can say about sharks is that there are varying degrees of bad—kind of like the vampires on True Blood. You have some vampires that kill just for the sheer pleasure, and others that try not to kill too often, but somehow wind up in situations that force them to kill anyway. The life of a shark is not so nuanced, though. They all want to kill, but some are better at it than others.
Q. I have a friend who is into “bad boys.” The last guy that she dated shaved his head and drove a motorbike. Now she’s saying that she wants something different. Should I worry?
A. If you’re suggesting that your “friend” is entertaining the idea of dating a shark, then the answer is a most profound “yes.” The rate of domestic violence in shark-human relationships is double that of homogeneous relationships in either species. What’s more is that the injuries can be much more devastating. If you or anyone you know is involved in an abusive relationship with a shark get them to a dry land shelter.
Q. I heard that a shark’s bite is only really dangerous because of all of the bacteria and proteins in their mouths and not because their venom is all that potent. True?
A. I think you’re talking about tarantulas. In any event, even a drop of shark venom in the bloodstream will kill you on the spot. And they’re all venomous.
Q. Can sharks get rashes?
A. Yes, and their abrasive skin also makes it likely that humans who pet sharks will also get it too.
Q. I’ve heard that sharks don’t really prefer the taste of humans, and that when they eat people it’s likely a mistake. Is it a mistake?
A. This is a common misconception. Let me answer with a convoluted analogy:
Most people wouldn’t instinctively eat a snail, right? Yet the Frogs marketed just that idea when they came up with escargot. Sharks are like very brave, lethal versions of the French. They don’t eat humans because we’re their first choice; they do it because we’re considered a delicacy. In the shark world, prestige is often measured by how many humans they consume—as you will see directly.
Q. Why is it so prestigious for sharks to eat humans?
A. Little is known as to why sharks deem the consumption of human meat to be so prestigious. There appears to be some connection between the eating of humans and piracy dating back to the 1700′s. What we do know is that sharks who consume a lot of human meat are found in nicer shark caves, have multiple mating partners, and generally have a more active social life.
Q. What is shark-finning and why is it banned?
A. Shark-finning is a catch and release program where sharks’ fins are cropped from the beasts to make healthy, delicious soup for human consumption. This is win-win for both humans and sharks except for the fact that the shark, who can no longer swim forward, suffocates and dies. Liberal politicians in Washington and Stockholm fail to recognize the danger that fully finned sharks present, so they pass legislation banning the practice. It’s the consequence of political platforms that focus on multiple issues: you take the good with the bad. I don’t want to make this a political debate, but it should be noted that President Obama has never once mentioned lifting the shark-finning ban in any public forum.
Q. Is it “card shark” or “card sharp”?
A. Both are acceptable, but to be on the safe side, you should probably go with “card sharp.”
So, kids, I hope this clears everything up. Don’t be too hard on old Why; his very ignorant heart’s in the right place.