Sharks: Myths and Realities

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Caribbean reef shark in Jardines de la Reina, Cuba
HEAD’S UP: A Caribbean reef shark in Jardines de la Reina, Cuba (Carlos Suárez)

Myth Sharks are hungry man eaters looking for any chance to attack.
Fact Sharks have no desire to eat humans. Most of the "attacks" on humans are a mistake, which is why there are so many more bites than fatalities. There are around 350 species of sharks, but white, tiger, and bull sharks are the species responsible for the majority of all attacks.

Myth Sharks are all the same.
Fact The reality is just the opposite. Shark species are very different in size, appearance, habitat, diet, and behavior. The typical Jaws vision is far from the norm.

Myth Shark attacks are on the rise.
Fact An individual's risk of a shark attack has not increased. With more people swimming, diving, surfing, and boating in waters where sharks live, there are more people interacting with sharks.

Myth Sharks are useless and we would be better off without them.
Fact Sharks are important to the health of ocean ecosystems. As the top predators, sharks keep the food web in balance.

Myth Since sharks provide an economic value through their many products, you might as well use them while you can.
Fact Sharks are actually worth more alive than dead since tourists pay huge sums of money to dive with sharks. Their position in the ecosystem also helps regulate economically important seafood fisheries below them in the food chain.

Myth Sharks are unintelligent creatures with walnut-sized brains.
Fact Sharks can exhibit complex social behavior and they have brain-to-body ratios similar to birds and mammals.

Myth Shark fins are tasty, nutritious, and full of medicinal properties.
Fact Shark fins offer no flavor or nutritious value. In fact, as apex predators, sharks accumulate the toxic contaminants, especially mercury, of the animals below them in the food chain.

Myth Shark fins grow back.
Fact If a shark is thrown overboard without its fin, it will not survive.

Myth Sharks don't get cancer.
Fact Studies have shown sharks do in fact get cancer. Consuming shark products will not prevent cancer from occurring in humans.

Myth Sharks have no predators.
Fact Humans are the greatest threat to sharks, killing up to 100 million sharks a year.


Published: 11 Jun 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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  • Myths and Facts Broken Down

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