Sometimes you can just see trouble coming like a runaway freight train. All the signs are there. All the omens are present. Yet it seems that nobody else can see it. Have you ever been in one of those situations? When it is as plain as the nose on your face that something is going to happen, you know it in the core of your being, yet nobody else takes notice? I feel like I’m standing on the beach, watching a tsunami building and building, and I want to scream at everyone to run. What am I writing about? I’m writing about the recent trend in the field in elasmobranchology (shark research) that has scientists tagging Great Whites with a radio transmitter so normal, everyday citizens can track them online. It’s a practice that, though initially well-meaning, I predicted would produce negative consequences. I said in a previous blog post that it would result in one or more of the tagged sharks being hunted down and killed. And though this hasn’t happened (yet), the signs are all there that it might happen soon.
It started innocent enough. Scientists and shark researchers, wanting to cash in on the recent crowd-sourcing trend that is sweeping the internet, placed the tracking results of several sharks on a website for everyone in the world to see. Their idea was to raise awareness and show the public that sharks are complex beings with incredibly large ranges. The initial data even surprised the scientists, who didn’t think in their wildest dreams that the sharks swam as many miles as they did. They voyage across oceans, thousands of nautical miles, tirelessly seeking out the things that sharks seek out.
The scientists also discovered other things about Great Whites, things that turn out to be terrifying to the general populace:
In Shark Files: Great Whites Swim Near Shore ‘Constantly’ Lori Cuthbert writes about the recent findings on Mary Lee, a Great White that was tagged in 2012. Seems Mary Lee has a thing for coastlines, and she regularly cruises the shallows of the Atlantic shores, sometimes coming as close as just a few miles. Though researchers are giddy and “awe-inspired,” they seem to be missing the panic that their efforts are causing.
Consider this headline: Authorities have no plan in place to protect swimmers from lurking shark
Besides the intentionally frightening title, the article contains all kinds of inflammatory language designed to whip up the terror. Words like “prowling,” and “beast,” and “man-eater.” It also goes on and on about how much the public is in danger and how the police and emergency services in the areas where Mary Lee frequents are not receiving any warnings about the shark’s presence, even if it is several miles off the coast. This kind of provocation isn’t new to the media. They know what they are doing. They know the risk to humans is so small it isn’t even worth mentioning, but that doesn’t get clicks. It’s reckless journalism at best, and the public is being victimized. But the worst victim might very well be Mary Lee in the end.
Trouble To Come
I predict trouble for Mary Lee and her finned counterparts. I see some crazed vigilante fisherman or men jumping in a boat and using their smartphones to track down a Great White and killing it for the “safety of the community.” Stay tuned. It might get ugly.
Sources: nypost.com | news.discovery.com