Shark Bites and Shark Conservation: An Analysis of Human Attitudes Following Shark Bite Incidents in Two Locations in Australia
The Fins United Initiative is excited to showcase a BRAND NEW section to our program: the "Bite into Research" segment! TFUI officers will be reading articles that were published in regards to Chondrichthyans (those are the sharks, skates, rays, and chimaeras... and include any sector) and explain it in terms that everyone can understand. Up first, we have TFUI Officer Carissa Thiel reviewing the following paper:
Pepin‐Neff, C. and Wynter, T. (2018), Shark Bites and Shark Conservation: An Analysis of Human Attitudes Following Shark Bite Incidents in Two Locations in Australia. CONSERVATION LETTERS, 11: e12407. doi:10.1111/conl.12407
With multiple social media outlets available, it seems easy to gather worldwide opinions about specific topics. But how can scientists measure these opinions to get an accurate representation of an area? This study used phone surveys to gain the general public’s attitude about sharks and policy preferences in two shark encounter prone areas. The timing is important too, as both Australian study areas had recently experienced fatal shark encounters. Quota limits were put in place to make sure a variety of the population was sampled (if the only people interviewed were beach lovers, the answers would not accurately represent everyone). Supplemental face to face interviews were conducted along the beach and in the business district to guarantee accurate sampling with the phone interviews. Since face to face interviews didn’t show any major differences, only phone interviews were analyzed for data. These interviews consisted of single response answer on a 1-10 scale, with an average interview time of 4 minutes. Open ended questions were not chosen due to the emotional trauma that can follow a fatal shark encounter and the needed ability to analyze answers on a scale.
The researchers found that just over 50% of citizens believe shark encounters are accidental, not intentional. From previous media outlets this seems like an improvement, but for some of us shark lovers it still seems too low. A majority of the public would prefer non-lethal policies including an increase in research, education, and tagging to prevent shark encounters. This is extremely important since certain areas of Australia participate in lethal methods such as culls, baited lines and nets, and active fishing of sharks. Most citizens also had low levels of confidence in the government’s ability in preventing shark encounters, even though they believed shark encounters are natural and not controllable. The Ballina population especially felt shark policies were there to “protect tourism” over the need to “calm the public.” While tourism can be influential in protecting various species, the local population should want to protect these species too. If people fear an animal they’re more likely to want to kill it, and successful conservation relies on public acceptance.
Even though it didn’t take place in a lab, this study provided numerical data that can be compared to future surveys that allow us to understand how the view of sharks has changed. Predators and animals without the cute and cuddly wow factor aren’t the typical front-runners to gain support from the public, but science communicators and public outreach programs can use the data from various surveys to see what areas they need to target to gain that support. Public surveys can help conservation progress for all animals, including those with no fur and lots of
GUEST BLOGGER AND TFUI OFFICER CARISSA THIEL
WHAT ELSE carissa HAS WRITTEN:
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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