Sharks: Bad creatures or bad image?

Nov 07, 2012
Sharks could benefit from an image campaign. Credit: Bret Muter.

(Phys.org)—Historically, the media have been particularly harsh to sharks, and it's affecting their survival.

The results of a Michigan State University study, appearing in the current issue of the journal Conservation Biology, reviewed worldwide media coverage of – and the majority isn't good.

Australian and U.S. news articles were more likely to focus on negative reports featuring sharks and rather than . Allowing such articles to dominate the overall news coverage diverts attention from key issues, such as are declining worldwide and many species are facing , said Meredith Gore, MSU assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife and the School of Criminal Justice.

"The most important aspect of this research is that risks from ­– rather than to – sharks continue to dominate news coverage in large international media markets," said Gore, part of the research team led by Bret Muter, formerly at MSU and now with the Udall Foundation. "To the extent that media reflect social opinion, this is problematic for shark conservation."

According to the study, more than 52 percent of global coverage focused on shark attacks on people, and sharks were portrayed negatively in nearly 60 percent of the coverage. That's compared to a mere 10 percent featuring shark conservation issues and just 7 percent focusing on shark biology or ecology.

Another interesting fact from the study is who is quoted in the stories. Conservation groups were typically quoted or cited highlighting negative effects on sharks. They weren't, however, part of stories about shark conservation.

"This suggests that conservation groups are either not being sought out by the media in regards to shark conservation issues or they are not engaging enough to make headlines," Gore said.

The issues affecting sharks' survival are many. They include the threat of overfishing (overharvesting sharks for their fins), pollution, and climate change. Sharks are especially vulnerable to these threats due to sharks' slow-growth rates, late age of maturity, long gestation periods and low reproductive output.

One way to improve sharks' image would be to balance the coverage. Examples of positive articles include highlighting the rarity of attacks, discussing preventive measures water users can take to reduce vulnerability to attacks, and discuss issues related to local and threatened species of sharks, Gore said.

Explore further: Researchers collect soil samples from around the globe in effort to conduct fungi survey

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

As sharks dwindle, new laws enacted

May 28, 2007

Shark fisheries in Mexico and throughout the world are dealing with proposed rules to curb shark hunting in the interest of preserving these predators.

Conservation dollars and sense

Jun 27, 2011

Shark populations over the last 50 years have decreased dramatically. From habitat degradation to overfishing and finning, human activities have affected their populations and made certain species all but ...

Ocean's fiercest predators now vulnerable to extinction

Feb 17, 2008

The numbers of many large shark species have declined by more than half due to increased demand for shark fins and meat, recreational shark fisheries, as well as tuna and swordfish fisheries, where millions of sharks are ...

Recommended for you

Male sex organ distinguishes 30 millipede species

15 hours ago

The unique shapes of male sex organs have helped describe thirty new millipede species from the Great Western Woodlands in the Goldfields, the largest area of relatively undisturbed Mediterranean climate ...

Dogs hear our words and how we say them

Nov 26, 2014

When people hear another person talking to them, they respond not only to what is being said—those consonants and vowels strung together into words and sentences—but also to other features of that speech—the ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jsdarkdestruction
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 07, 2012
i dont know, ive read alot of them in the paper and they always stress that shark attacks are exceedingly rare and are almost always not meant to kill or maim but are "test bites" the sharks do when they see something they are not familar with.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.