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Notes and Comments Why Sharks May Have Nothing to Fear More Than Fear Itself: An Analysis of the Effect of Human Attitudes on the Conservation of the Great White Shark

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... Media is often credited with perpetuating negative perceptions of and publicizing risks from sharks. The movie Jaws is widely criticized for popularizing the perception of sharks as man-eaters, and the news media is recognized for sensationalizing treatment of sharks and shark attacks (Philpott, 2002). For example, a series of shark attacks in the USA in summer 2001 led Times Magazine to nickname it 'The Summer of the Shark' (Philpott, 2002). ...
... The movie Jaws is widely criticized for popularizing the perception of sharks as man-eaters, and the news media is recognized for sensationalizing treatment of sharks and shark attacks (Philpott, 2002). For example, a series of shark attacks in the USA in summer 2001 led Times Magazine to nickname it 'The Summer of the Shark' (Philpott, 2002). A dominant source of media today is the Internet; unsurprisingly, the Internet is rife with information about sharks -their ecology, attacks on people, conservation and tourism. ...
... Sharks' negative public image (Nel and Peschak, 2006;Dobson, 2008) figured prominently on shark diving websites with a victim frame. Philpott (2002) noted that because it appears that the public's primary perception of sharks is that they are dangerous and not endangered, public support for shark conservation is hampered. There appears to be overwhelming consensus among conservationists that public misconception about sharks is a key factor posing a challenge to shark conservation (Nel and Peschak, 2006). ...
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1.Decision-makers can leverage understanding about the human dimensions (HD) of shark conservation to inform more effective conservation action. Characterizing risk frames on shark diving websites can provide insight about the HD of shark conservation and deepen understanding of the role of risk in influencing human relationships with wildlife.2.The objectives of the current study were to: (1) describe risk frames (e.g. victim, perpetrator) found on shark diving websites; (2) explore themes among and between risk frames; and (3) synthesize implications for conservation.3.Content among 53 websites was analysed in December 2008; 15% used only a perpetrator frame, 21% used only a victim frame, 36% used both frames and 28% used neither frame.4.Websites with a conservation link were more likely to use a victim frame (T = 0.283, P
... For decades, sharks have been falsely portrayed by the media more than any other animal [13][14][15]. The movie JAWS, which was released in 1975, has been by far the biggest influence on public perception of sharks. ...
... People tend to follow the old adage that they do not need to protect what they are afraid of. Indeed, ignorance and arrogance have led to the elimination of other animal groups in the past [13,20], and sharks are in similar danger. ...
... These negative and sensationalized narratives have been high-grossing for the movie industry but have also misinformed the public about sharks' biology and human-shark interactions (Neff & Hueter 2013). For example, the use of expressions like "shark attack", "man-eater", "man-killer", "rogue", "monster" and "jaws", together with dramatized headlines and images in news reports and movies, have created a negative framing and provided sharks with a negative public image (Philpott 2002;Jacques 2010;Neff 2012Neff , 2015Muter et al. 2013;Neff & Hueter 2013;McCagh et al. 2015). ...
... Governments often respond to reported "shark attacks" with knee-jerk policy responses (Neff & Hueter 2013). Examples include governments' decision to launch shark culling campaigns after a series of shark bite incidents which happened in 2001 in the southeastern United States during the so-called "Summer of the Shark", and after several episodes of shark bites in Western Australia between 2000 and 2014, and New South Whales in 2009 (Philpott 2002;Lynch et al. 2010;Crossley et al. 2014;Neff 2015). A recent study by Pepin- Neff and Wynter (2018) has demonstrated that perceptions that sharks intentionally "attack" people, which is a narrative typical of Jaws and other movies, are directly related to public fear of sharks and public support for lethal shark control policies. ...
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The Mediterranean Sea is a hotspot for shark conservation. A decline in large pelagic shark populations has been observed in this vast region over the last 50 years and a lack of data on the local population status of various species has been pointed out. Throughout history, the relation between people and sharks has been revolving around a mixture of mystery, fear, and attraction. Recently, however, a remunerative ecotourism industry has been growing in areas of shark aggregation globally. This growth has been accompanied by the establishment of a citizen science (CS) movement aimed to engage and recruit ecotourists in data collection for shark research. Several CS projects have generated interesting results in terms of scientific findings and public engagement. In the Mediterranean Sea, shark aggregations are not as relevant to support locally-focused CS actions on shark diving sites as in other parts of the world. However, a series of other initiatives are taking place and CS could offer an excellent opportunity for shark conservation in the Mediterranean Sea. The dramatic decline of shark populations shown in the region calls for alternative ways to collect data on species distributions and abundance. Obtaining such data to set proper conservation and management plans for sharks in the Mediterranean Sea will be possible if existing CS initiatives collaborate and coordinate, and CS is widely acknowledged and deployed as a valuable tool for public education, engagement, and scientific discovery. After providing an overview of multiple facets of the relationship between humans and sharks, we focus on the possibility of exploiting new technologies and attitudes toward sharks among some groups of ocean users to boost participatory research. CS is a great opportunity for shark science, especially for areas such as the Mediterranean Sea and for large pelagic sharks whose populations are highly impacted.
... Sharks are especially vulnerable to these threats due to their life-history traits (i.e., slow growth rates, late age of maturity, long gestation periods, and low reproductive output) (Musick 1999). Like many apex predators, sharks suffer from a negative public image (Driscoll 1995;Woods 2000; Thompson & Mintzes 2002) in part because they can threaten human safety (Philpott 2002). Negative perceptions about sharks and shark-attack risks have been identified as one of the greatest barriers to shark conservation efforts (Ferguson 2006). ...
... Media studies have long recognized the ability of mass media to reflect popular views (Katz & Lazarsfeld 1955;Jensen 2003;Gans 2004) and to influence social attitudes about outcomes of wildlife and conservation policy (Wolch et al. 1997;Muter et al. 2009;Jacobson et al. 2012). News and entertainment media are widely credited for perpetuating negative portrayals of sharks and for amplifying public fear through newspaper stories and documentaries with sensationalistic headlines and imagery (Philpott 2002;Peschak 2006). However, the content and context of news media coverage about sharks, needed to empirically assess this claim, has been neither adequately described nor quantified. ...
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Investigation of the social framing of human–shark interactions may provide useful strategies for integrating social, biological, and ecological knowledge into national and international policy discussions about shark conservation. One way to investigate social opinion and forces related to sharks and their conservation is through the media's coverage of sharks. We conducted a content analysis of 300 shark-related articles published in 20 major Australian and U.S. newspapers from 2000 to 2010. Shark attacks were the emphasis of over half the articles analyzed, and shark conservation was the primary topic of 11% of articles. Significantly more Australian articles than U.S. articles treated shark attacks (χ2 = 3.862; Australian 58% vs. U.S. 47%) and shark conservation issues (χ2 = 6.856; Australian 15% vs. U.S. 11%) as the primary article topic and used politicians as the primary risk messenger (i.e., primary person or authority sourced in the article) (χ2 = 7.493; Australian 8% vs. U.S. 1%). However, significantly more U.S. articles than Australian articles discussed sharks as entertainment (e.g., subjects in movies, books, and television; χ2 = 15.130; U.S. 6% vs. Australian 1%) and used scientists as the primary risk messenger (χ2 = 5.333; U.S. 25% vs. Australian 15%). Despite evidence that many shark species are at risk of extinction, we found that most media coverage emphasized the risks sharks pose to people. To the extent that media reflects social opinion, our results highlight problems for shark conservation. We suggest that conservation professionals purposefully and frequently engage with the media to highlight the rarity of shark attacks, discuss preventative measures water users can take to reduce their vulnerability to shark encounters, and discuss conservation issues related to local and threatened species of sharks. When integrated with biological and ecological data, social-science data may help generate a more comprehensive perspective and inform conservation practice. Descripción de Tiburones y su Conservación por Medios Informativos Australianos y Norteamericanos La investigacióndel marco social de las interacciones humanos–tiburones puede proporcionar estrategias útiles para la integración de conocimiento social, biológico y ecológico en las discusiones de políticas nacionales e internacionales para la conservación de tiburones. Una manera de investigar la opinión y fuerzas sociales relacionadas con tiburones y su conservación es a través de la cobertura de los medios sobre tiburones. Realizamos un análisis de contenido de 300 artículos relacionados con tiburones publicados de 2000 a 2010 en 20 periódicos australianos y norteamericanos. Los ataques de tiburones fueron el enfásis de más de la mitad de los artículos analizados, y la conservación de tiburones fue el tema primario de 11% de los artículos. Significativamente más artículos australianos que norteamericanos trataron los ataques de tiburón (χ2 = 3.862; australianos 58% vs. norteamericanos 47%) y temas de conservación de tiburón (χ2 = 6.856; australianos 15% vs. norteamericanos 11%) como el tema principal del artículo y utilizaron a políticos como el principal mensajero de riesgo (i.e., persona o autoridad primaria fuente del artículo) (χ2 = 7.493; norteamericanos 8% vs. australianos 1%). Sin embargo, significativamente más artículos norteamericanos que australianos discutieron a los tiburones como entretenimiento (e.g., sujetos en películas, libros y televisión; χ2 = 15.130; norteamericanos 6% vs. australianos 1%) y usaron a científicos como el principal mensajero de riesgo (χ2 = 5.333; norteamericanos 25% vs. asutralianos 15%). No obstante la evidencia de muchas especies de tiburón están en riesgo de extinción, encontramos que la mayoría de la cobertura de los medios enfatizó los riesgos que representan los tiburones para humanos. En el sentido en que los medios reflejan la opinión social, nuestros resultados resaltan los problemas para la conservación de tiburones. Sugerimos que profesionales de la conservación se comprometan con los medios, con determinación y frecuencia, para resaltar la rareza de los ataques de tiburones, discutir medidas preventivas que los usuarios pueden tomar para reducir su vulnerabilidad a encuentros con tiburones y discutir temas de conservación relacionados con especies de tiburones locales y amenazadas. Datos de la ciencia social, incorporados a datos biológicos y ecológicos, pueden ayudar a generar una perspectiva integral y proporcionar información a la práctica de la conservación.
... Although interactions potentially impacting human safety occur with different terrestrial (e.g., lions, wolf, bears) and marine organisms (e.g., jellyfish, crocodiles), few species are more feared than sharks. Sharks, like many apex predators, suffer from a negative public image (Driscoll, 1995;Thompson & Mintzes, 2002;Woods, 2000), in part because of their ability to pose threats to human safety (Philpott, 2002). These negative perceptions of sharks and shark attack risk have been identified as a barrier to global shark conservation efforts (Ferguson, 2006). ...
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Human–wildlife conflict (HWC) is a significant and growing problem, with mitigation measures being increasingly dependent on sociopolitical landscapes. We surveyed 766 people from two Australian states to assess their understanding of shark attack mitigation measures. Although beach users were relatively aware of existing mitigation measures, the efficacy of aerial patrol was overestimated, as was the risk of shark attack. The latter, as well as the innate fear of shark attacks, is likely to explain the high level of worry related with shark attack and fits within the affect heuristic that can influence how people respond to risk situations. Beach users did not, however, choose beaches based on existing mitigation measures. Results highlight the need for improved education about the risks of shark attack and for further research into the emotional response from low probability–high consequences incidents.
... The focus on implicit as opposed to explicit risks is one that is not commonly seen in the risk communication literature on risk reduction. It is also striking given the high levels of threat attached to and from sharks (Philpott 2002). Are website designers capitalizing on the apparent evolutionary human fear response to sharks? ...
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Websites designed to promote risky activities provide a novel context for studying the role of emotional appeals and message sensation value (MSV) in risk messages in order to ultimately understand the type of messages that motivate people to engage in risk behaviors. Framed in theories of message design and emotion, this study investigates representations of threat, efficacy, and the extent to which risk messages appeal to a range of positive and negative emotions through the examination of 53 shark diving websites using content analysis and computer generated linguistic analysis. Results indicate that few websites provide explicit threat information (i.e. severity and susceptibility) but many do present implicit threats. Efficacy-related messages were present on all websites. Positive emotion was more common than negative emotion and there is little representation of the traditional components of MSV. Implications for theory development and communication about risk-seeking are addressed.
... While the probability (risk) of the hazard occurring is low, the vivid nature of a shark bite ensures a high degree of media reporting and public concern (Neff 2012), even though most shark bites result in very minor injuries only (Woolgar and Cliff 2001). Unprovoked shark bites on humans is an example of the need to consider and balance anthropocentric and eco-centric views in contemporary coastal management (Philpott 2002). Responses to the hazard that shark bites pose involve public policies and management approaches that contend with the needs of public safety, and the responsibility to protect threatened species (Neff 2012). ...
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An unprovoked shark bite is an extremely infrequent, but highly disturbing hazard for water sport participants in many parts of the world. Information was analysed on the total number of unprovoked shark bites between 1982 and 2011. In this period, unprovoked shark bite were recorded from 56 countries with 27 recording fatalities; however 84.5% occurred in only six countries - United States, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Bahamas and Reunion Island. The three shark species commonly responsible for unprovoked bites are the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), and the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas). Over the period examined, the total number of unprovoked shark bites and the number that were fatal increased in frequency. However, fatalities from unprovoked fatal shark bite still represented an infrequent hazard to people utilising the coastal zone for water-based leisure activities. The increase in unprovoked shark bite could not be explained entirely by increases in human population, and this article also concluded that changes in the population of relevant shark species were also unlikely to explain the increase. The paper concluded that both natural and anthropogenic factors may change the amount of spatial overlap between relevant shark species and areas of human use.
... The movie links primal anxieties, such as fear of darkness, with other threats, such as the existence of mentally ill persons seeking to harm others. A powerful example of the irrational fears that movies can evoke is Jaws (1975), which had significant repercussions for public perceptions of dangers related to shark attacks (Neff, 2015;Philpott, 2002). While the likelihood of car failure is low, it is addressed in various advertising campaigns depicting specific car brands and models as reliable. ...
Chapter
Emotions underlie human behavior and have considerable relevance for automobility. This chapter discusses functions of emotions from (evolutionary) social psychology viewpoints and draws linkages to automobile culture. Considerable attention is paid to anxieties, which permeate the automotive system on a wide range of levels and have received limited attention in the literature so far. It is argued that anxieties have great relevance for car attachment, because they address fundamental needs, necessitating car travel—obesity, old age, and an insecure outside world all require automobility. As the automobile is an unsafe space in itself, anxieties related to risk exposure (accidents, car reliability) are regularly addressed in advertisements. This soothes, but also confirms fears, and results in growing car attachment. Emotions also have great relevance in other contexts, including anger, revenge, rebellion, and escape, which represent flight-fight-fright reactions. While this confirms that negative emotions can influence transport behavior, findings also suggest that these can arise out of neglect, abuse, and trauma. To understand and change (reckless) driver behavior requires consideration of the social conditions underlying and activating such behavior.
... For example, news coverage of sharks in both Australia and the USA emphasizes the risk that sharks pose to humans, not the risks humans pose to sharks, and this could steer the public towards seeing sharks as perpetrators, not victims (Muter et al. 2012). Philpott (2002) further described changing media coverage of shark-human interactions in the USA in the early 1900s. Before a series of shark bites in 1916 in the state of New Jersey, shark bites were not considered a great concern by most members of the public. ...
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The nature of media reporting can have a serious impact on the policy and management of wildlife and other conservation issues, perhaps especially in areas where large charismatic wildlife still persist amongst a high-density human population. This study used qualitative content analysis to evaluate whether a series of media workshops had an impact on the reporting of human–leopard interactions in Mumbai, India, with the goal of de-sensationalizing coverage of negative interactions, as well as providing more factual information to the public. The qualitative analysis used newspaper article headlines to make the analysis relatively simple and affordable. The results found that despite fewer attacks in our post-workshop timeframe, reporting about leopards actually increased. However, the coverage was less sensational, leopards were not portrayed as being the aggressor as often, more emphasis was placed on how humans can prevent attacks, negative impacts on leopards were considered more often, and more realistic solutions were presented. Our results show that proactive engagement with the media, even over contentious issues, can lead to changes in how conservation issues are covered—eventually aiding in the conservation of the species and, in this case, even the welfare of the people through reduced conflict. In addition, this study found that qualitative content analysis can be a relatively simple and straightforward tool that can be implemented for such analysis.
... For example, although on the surface there would appear to be a great distance between management plans for the English sparrow (Passer domesticus; a non-native species in the USA), immigration policies, and war, much of the same rhetoric has been used for each (Fine and Christoforides 1991). Describing a human-wildlife conflict reduction program (generally utilizing lethal methods) as a 'war' has also been used against sharks (Philpott 2002) and cane toads (Shine and Greene 2018), among many others. As this study shows, this same rhetoric is used regarding human-coyote conflict. ...
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Wildlife managers and others charged with resolving human-coyote conflict in urban and suburban areas cannot focus solely on ecology and coyote behavior. The perceptions of the people living in the affected communities play a significant role in the resolution of human-coyote conflict. In this study, we explore how residents of two communities in suburban Denver, CO, USA, mentally processed, made sense of, and acted upon human–coyote interactions in the face of conflict. By conducting interviews and using qualitative content analysis to explore existing documents, we examined how the use of language reflected and exacerbated the conflict over coyote management. Themes of violence, crime and war ran throughout our data. Anger and accusations of extremism were prevalent. Closely tied to the violent language and imagery used was a discussion of tolerance and intolerance, taking what is generally human-centric language and using it with wildlife. In addition, labeling coyotes as not belonging in an area (although they are a native species) further increased the urge to protect family and pets from the perception of the threat against ‘the other’, sometimes expressed in inflammatory language. Political and other messaging can either enhance or reduce a sense of threat, and we found that the language used in this debate enhanced the perceived threat of both coyotes and policy opponents. Finding ways to defuse this language could be a step toward a greater understanding of how to live with local wildlife in a way that minimizes harm to people and to the animals.
... Many scholars have pointed to sharks' bad image as the main impediment to their conservation efforts among the general public (e.g., Ferguson, 2006;Muter et al., 2013;Neff & Hueter, 2012;Philpott, 2002). Understanding the socio-psychological factors, and especially stereotypes, that can structure human perception of sharks is therefore crucial (Panoch & Pearson, 2017). ...
Article
Sharks are at increasing risk of extinction. Being a key factor in maintaining the balance of marine life in the ocean, as well as regulating the variety and abundance of the species below them in the food chain, their depletion is threatening the whole marine ecological system. Aside from the fisheries industry regulation, public opinion plays a fundamental role in any conservation effort. However, unlike other iconic sea marine animals such as dolphins, sharks receive little attention, and conservation support from the public. Many scholars attribute such neglect to sharks' bad image amongst the public. The present study was aimed at getting a better understanding of sharks' bad image, using the Stereotype Content Model/Behaviors from Intergroup Affect and Stereotypes map (SCM/BIAS map), and its association with attitudinal and behavioral tendencies toward their conservation. Participants (n = 144; Mage = 22.28; SD = 6.24; 66% female) were assessed in terms of their perceived warmth, competence, and approach-avoidance emotions related to sharks (and dolphins), as well as attitudes toward their conservation and their donation intention. Results showed that, congruent with the SCM/BIAS map, sharks fit the “threatening-awe stereotype” (high competence and low warmth), whereas dolphins align with the “protective stereotype” (high competence and high warmth). Results also showed that warmth was associated with more positive perceptions of sharks and positive attitudes toward their conservation. Warmth as a potential facilitating key factor in sharks’ conservation promotion is discussed.
... Media portrayal of sharks is often negative, with sensationalistic headlines and imagery that amplify public fear and perception of threat from sharks (Philpott 2002;Peschak 2006). This reaction, in turn, influences government policy responses and public expectations of action from its political leadership (Neff 2014). ...
Article
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Encounters between humans and wildlife that result in human fatalities can generate public anxiety and increase pressure on conservation managers and governments for risk mitigation. Low probability-high consequence events such as shark bites on humans attract substantial media attention for short time periods, but how the media react when several of these rare but fatal events occur in quick succession has seldom been subject to quantitative analysis. Understanding media portrayal of such encounters is important because it both reflects and influences public perceptions of risks, mitigation measures, and conservation policies. This study examined media portrayals of sharks between 2011 and 2013 in the state of Western Australia during which six shark bites resulting in fatalities occurred. We analysed 361 shark-related articles published in major Western Australian newspapers over 26 months to trace changes in media reporting about sharks prior to, during, and after the six fatalities. The findings indicate that when rare, but fatal human-wildlife events occur in quick succession, negative framing by media of wildlife behaviour and threats can exaggerate public anxiety about the pervasive presence of wildlife predators and high risk of human fatalities. The study highlights the need for government agencies and conservation scientists to better engage with media to provide accurate and effective information and advice to swimmers and surfers about shark ecology and behaviour.
... Media portrayal of sharks is often negative, with sensationalistic headlines and imagery that amplify public fear and perception of threat from sharks (Philpott 2002;Peschak 2006). This reaction, in turn, influences government policy responses and public expectations of action from its political leadership (Neff 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
Encounters between humans and wildlife that result in human fatalities can generate public anxiety and increase pressure on conservation managers and governments for risk mitigation. Low probability-high consequence events such as shark bites on humans attract substantial media attention for short time periods, but how the media react when several of these rare but fatal events occur in quick succession has seldom been subject to quantitative analysis. Understanding media portrayal of such encounters is important because it both reflects and influences public perceptions of risks, mitigation measures, and conservation policies. This study examined media portrayals of sharks between 2011 and 2013 in the state of Western Australia during which six shark bites resulting in fatalities occurred. We analysed 361 shark-related articles published in major Western Australian newspapers over 26 months to trace changes in media reporting about sharks prior to, during, and after the six fatalities. The findings indicate that when rare, but fatal human-wildlife events occur in quick succession, negative framing by media of wildlife behaviour and threats can exaggerate public anxiety about the pervasive presence of wildlife predators and high risk of human fatalities. The study highlights the need for government agencies and conservation scientists to better engage with media to provide accurate and effective information and advice to swimmers and surfers about shark ecology and behaviour.
... Consumptive orientation measures the importance of certain catch-related variables to the angler, namely catching numbers of fish, keeping fish, catching a trophy fish and catching something (Anderson, Ditton, & Hunt, 2007;Fedler & Ditton, 1986;Kyle, Norman, Jodice, Graefe, & Marsinko, 2007). Species must have unique value to stakeholders as food items or sport fish (Tracey, Lyle, Ewing, Hartmann, & Mapleson, 2013;Wallmo & Gentner, 2008) and may also have important conservation (Bruce, 2014;Heard et al., 2016;Jensen et al., 2009), economic (Hickley & Tompkins, 1998;Shrestha, Seidl, & Moraes, 2002;Galeano, Langenkamp, Levantis, Shafron, & Redmond, 2004;Prayaga, Rolfe, & Stoeckl, 2010;Frijlink, 2011) or social (Kellert, 1985;Neff & Yang, 2013;Philpott, 2002) attributes. Additional layers of geographic, cultural and/or social context (Graefe & Ditton, 1997;Grambsch & Fisher, 1991;Henry & Lyle, 2003;Rogers & Bailleul, 2015;Sutton, 2003) can yield important differences in attitude and behaviour towards wildlife. ...
Article
Effective management of wildlife resources depends on understanding and cooperating with the human users of the resource, particularly as policies may be rejected if user satisfactions are not met. In Australia, recreational anglers can legally target a migratory top predator, the shortfin mako shark Isurus oxyrinchus, which is also a species at risk. It is assumed that most of the sharks are released and population remains minimally impacted; yet, the actual release rate of this species is unknown and little information is available about anglers that participate in this fishery. Fishing motivations and behaviours were ascertained by a web survey of recreational shark anglers from three south‐eastern Australian states. Respondents reported that ~70% of the captured makos were released, with significant geographic variation in release rates between states. Most anglers reported being motivated by the catch‐based objectives, the thrills and challenges, rather than harvest‐based motivations. However, there were significant differences in harvesting motivation among states. This could be attributed to the varying value assigned to shortfin mako as a sport fish and table fish among regions. Additionally, higher rates of release among anglers from New South Wales may be linked to increased opportunity for resource substitution (i.e. greater diversity of game fish species) and established norms driven by current catch‐and‐release fisheries in that region. Increased participation in catch‐and‐release fishing may be achieved by establishing behavioural norms by the provision of more desirable incentives to release sharks during fishing competitions. Data on regional variation in release rates yield important information for managers to target specialized fishers to incentivize catch‐and‐release fishing with an objective of changing behaviour. Many anglers understand that sharks are important to marine ecosystems and messaging may be important to deliver effective management given that most anglers are motivated by catch‐based objectives even though many enjoy harvesting makos. Information on natural resource user motivations and satisfactions, such as studied here, has the potential to guide management actions and the ways in which managers interact with resource users. A plain language summary is available for this article. Plain Language Summary
... It is paramount for the sake of sharks that the general public finally understands that these animals do not present any grave statistical danger [1]. As a result of this unjustified fear, sharks are denied the protection they so desperately need [39][40][41]. One can only hope that the global decrease in bite rates will put people's minds at ease and ameliorate this unfair prejudice against sharks [42][43][44]. ...
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The trends of the world’s top ten countries relating to shark bite rates, defined as the ratio of the annual number of shark bites of a country and its resident human population, were analyzed for the period 2000-2016. A nonparametric permutation-based methodology was used to determine whether the slope of the regression line of a country remained constant over time or whether so-called joinpoints, a core feature of the statistical software Joinpoint , occurred, at which the slope changes and a better fit could be obtained by applying a straight-line model. More than 90% of all shark bite incidents occurred along the US, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand coasts. Since three of these coasts showed a negative trend when transformed into bite rates, the overall global trend is decreasing. Potential reasons for this decrease in shark bite rates—besides an increase in the world’s human population, resulting in more beach going people, and a decrease of sharks due to overfishing—are discussed.
... Nolan et al. (2006) described how perceptions of animals prime human attitudes, a factor that can yield a mismatch between perception and reality as it pertains to wildlife. For sharks, fear associated with attacks, amplified by negative portrayals of sharks, may be resulting in the negative sentiments related to this word (Philpott 2002;Neff 2015). Ethnobiological studies have investigated the consequences of human attitudes as a driver of species conservation, which supports the relevance of our findings and supports the notion that attitudes towards wildlife can influence their conservation (Ceríaco 2012). ...
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Culturomics is emerging as an important field within science, as a way to measure attitudes and beliefs and their dynamics across time and space via quantitative analysis of digitized data from literature, news, film, social media, and more. Sentiment analysis is a culturomics tool that, within the last decade, has provided a means to quantify the polarity of attitudes expressed within various media. Conservation science is a crisis discipline; therefore, accurate and effective communication are paramount. We investigated how conservation scientists communicate their findings through scientific journal articles. We analyzed 15,001 abstracts from articles published from 1998 to 2017 in 6 conservation-focused journals selected based on indexing in scientific databases. Articles were categorized by year, focal taxa, and the conservation status of the focal species. We calculated mean sentiment score for each abstract (mean adjusted z score) based on 4 lexicons (Jockers-Rinker, National Research Council, Bing, and AFINN). We found a significant positive annual trend in the sentiment scores of articles. We also observed a significant trend toward increasing negativity along the spectrum of conservation status categories (i.e., from least concern to extinct). There were some clear differences in the sentiments with which research on different taxa was reported, however. For example, abstracts mentioning lobe finned fishes tended to have high sentiment scores, which could be related to the rediscovery of the coelacanth driving a positive narrative. Contrastingly, abstracts mentioning elasmobranchs had low scores, possibly reflecting the negative sentiment score associated with the word shark. Sentiment analysis has applications in science, especially as it pertains to conservation psychology, and we suggest a new science-based lexicon be developed specifically for the field of conservation. © 2019 Society for Conservation Biology.
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Often portrayed as ‘man–eaters’ sharks are one of the most maligned apex species on earth. Media representation has fuelled public imagination, perpetuating fear and negative stereotypes of sharks and hysteria around human-shark interactions; whilst government initiatives such as beach netting and drum-lines target sharks for elimination. This interdisciplinary article, written from the points of view of environmental science and cultural studies, proposes humans as simply another species when entering the ocean, presenting a decolonising shift in paradigm that supports an interspecies ethics of engagement in understanding shark-human interactions. The shifting environmental, political, social and cultural realities of shark-human interactions are examined from the point of view of an endangered species that is hunted by humans in the pursuit of making beaches ‘safe’ for human leisure activities. The human ‘right to leisure’ enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), raises philosophical and ethical implications in respect of human rights taking precedence over a species’ right to live in its environment. The article builds upon philosophical debates in environmental ethics, offering a point of cultural recognition of the profound imbalance that is being imposed upon Nature. The article proposes a shift in approaches to human attitudes and uses of the ocean, decentralizing the anthropocentric, reinstating the ecological kinship of species. Keywords: Interspecies Ethics of Engagement; Decolonisation; Conservation; Animal Ethics; Human Rights; Marine Policy.
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This paper explores the Western Australian Government's decision to disallow white shark tourism operations within the State. This policy was made during a time of an unprecedented number of shark bite fatalities in the region. We argue that the Government's verdict was reactive due to this abnormality and did not take a balanced and considered approach. White sharks are an important key stone species with a high conservation value, but a particularly negative popular image. Therefore, we contend that dismissing the prospect of tourism also dismissed the prospect of creating a more realistic representation of the species. In addition, economic benefits to a regional area and research opportunities on the species were also lost.
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Chondrichthyes are a group of cartilaginous fish, where we have sharks, rays, and chimeras as members. This group plays an important role in aquatic ecology, as they act as predators throughout the food chain (e.g., sharks). However, many populations of Chondrichthyes are threatened by several factors (increased direct fishing, high mortality rate as accompanying fauna, marine pollution, habitat destruction, etc.). These declines are evident in many parts of the world and have come to the attention of scientists, conservation organizations, the media, and the general public. Fisheries legislation regulating international fisheries markets has been amended to provide greater protection for this group along with other species of fish. However, little is known about these species, which reinforces the importance of studies in order to have a better understanding of the elasmobranch stocks, as well as to identify the influences of the anthropic action of fishing. In response to knowledge on the low sustainability of cartilaginous fish fisheries on a global scale, FAO has developed an international plan of action for the management and conservation of these fish, with the aim of developing and implementing national plans of action to ensure management and conservation of these stocks, having as main recommendation the collection of information about the Chondrichthyes, especially the sharks. Even so, this group is little known in terms of biodiversity, ecology, behavior, and a host of other characteristics relevant to this taxon, which is very worrying. Chondrichthyes - Multidisciplinary Approach attempts to portray to the readers up-to-date information on Chondrichthyes to promote an overview of the current taxon, serving as an indispensable source of access to more accurate and detailed information on shark rays and chimeras.
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