Thoughts & Views: Straight from the shark’s mouth

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Following our June 24 column, in which we celebrated the 40th anniversary of “Jaws,” we received a call from an Observer reader who was concerned about “the media’s continuing demonization of sharks.”

We suggested that he write a letter to the editor but found out that he had access to neither a computer nor pen/ paper. Ergo, we arranged a face-to-face interview, and last week, coincidentally “Shark Week,” we met with him at an undisclosed location at the Jersey Shore.

Our interviewee is himself a shark. (If you think that’s ludicrous, remember that we once interviewed the Jersey Devil. We have been in this business long enough to have cultivated many sources.)

The shark, who prefers to be identified not by name but only as a Great White, said that while he can grasp humans’ fear of his kind, that fear is based on misunderstanding, lack of knowledge and the aforementioned “demonization.”

“Just because we look vicious doesn’t mean we all are,” he said, sipping a Mai Tai. “Like any other species, including humans, we have our ‘rogues.’ But we have no Crips or Bloods or other organized gangs in the sea, and I have never heard of even one of us being armed.”

Observer: But you can’t be armed. You have no arms.

“A moot point. We do not carry weapons.”

O: Your weapons are your teeth.

“The better to feed, on FISH. Humans don’t taste very good, you know. And you are full of fat, carbohydrates, sugar. Not a healthy diet for us. Note that in most shark ‘attacks’ on people, we take one bite and spit you out. Yuck.”

O: Still, you must admit your teeth are formidable.

“’My, my, what big teeth you have! Ooh, scary!’ Have you ever seen a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt?”

O: Are there any vegetarian sharks?

“Not to my knowledge. Seaweed tastes even worse than humans. But we do care about animal rights. None of us wears fur.”

O: Do you have any statistics to back up your claim that sharks are not by nature maneaters?

“I refer you to last Sunday’s Star-Ledger, which had a front-page story on this topic, prompted by the recent news of eight North Carolina swimmers being bitten in 28 days. Note: bitten not eaten. My suspicion is that these were drunken college-sharks on summer break.

“Additionally, the Ledger story noted that: 1. In the last century, there have been only 15 shark attacks in Jersey waters; consider the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people who have swum there in that time. 2. The odds of your being bitten by a shark in U.S. waters is 1 in 11.5 million.

3. According to the Shark Research Institute at Princeton, ‘Shark attacks are so rare, you have you have more of a chance of being hit by a meteor.’”

O: Impressive. Any other data?

“Yes. National Geographic reports that only 5 people die from shark attacks yearly, but “for every human killed by a shark, humans kill approximately 2 million sharks.”

O: Sounds like sharks should be producing movies about killer humans.

“There are enough of those already.”

O: Still, I must confess that sitting here with you, I am a bit nervous. You DO look frightening.

“Again, you’re judging by appearances. I’ve seen more frightening-looking people walking around Kearny.”

O: Sharks can walk?

“They were walking. I was in a car.”

O: Anything else you’d like to say?

“Yes! New Jersey, please stop yammering about the megamouths. These sharks live in the very deepest waters and are extremely rare. IMHO, the only megamouth Jersey should worry about is Chris Christie.”

(Editor’s note: In case you’re wondering how the shark could have called me, he has a shell phone.) 

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