Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Sharks' Bad Rap Makes Them Hard to Save

Shark attacks have all the elements of a great news story — they're terrifying, bloody and mesmerizing all at once. But high-pitched coverage of shark attacks in the media often doesn't reflect how rare such gruesome encounters are. What's more, a new study suggests that the disproportionate negative attention could hurt sharks' chances of survival.
A group of researchers examined coverage of sharks in newspapers in the United States and Australia from January 2000 through December 2009. Of 300 articles about sharks randomly selected from this sample, more than half of the coverage was about shark attacks on people. A mere 10 percent of the articles focused on shark conservation issues and just 7 percent centered on shark biology or ecology.
In 2011, there were 75 shark attacks reported worldwide, a dozen of which were fatal. Despite these relatively low numbers, the threat sharks pose to humans was emphasized in nearly 60 percent of the articles the researchers analyzed. Meanwhile, far fewer articles discussed shark finning, pollution, habitat loss and other threats to sharks, which are apex predators that help balance ecosystems in the world's oceans. An estimated 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins alone.

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