In the cinema, sharks are very often associated with the horrific genre. Feature films centered on a formidable predator who loves human flesh are indeed very numerous since Les Dents de la mer and its colossal success. But are sharks really so dangerous in reality? On the occasion of the dissemination of Dents de la mer 2 (which will be followed by first opus), in which Martin Brody and his family are again confronted with a very aggressive white man, focus on this question.
If shark attacks on humans have always been a reality, they remain very rare for several reasons: first of all, sharks are not, basically, not interested in human flesh nor present on the majority of the beaches of the world. It is especially in California, Australia and South Africa that accidents are likely to occur, at least with regard to the great white (the most dangerous in front of the tiger and bulldog sharks, which evolve in warmer waters ).
Other places, such as Florida, New Caledonia or Reunion, also have risky beaches. For ten years, the latter has even triggered a real “shark crisis”: between 2011 and 2019, not far from eleven people were killed. In the world over a year, the attacks listed are between 50 and 120, for “only” about ten deaths (most are therefore not fatal, sometimes they are even very superficial injuries).
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The probability of dying from the teeth of a shark is therefore very low, even on the most dangerous beaches. By way of comparison, at least fifteen animal species kill many more: mosquitoes (around 800,000 dead per year!), Snakes, crocodiles, dogs, elephants, hippos and even lions.
The causes of shark attacks are multiple. From the outset, you should know that more than 95% of shark species are harmless.
In risk areas, the (rare) tragic encounters between humans and sharks result from an accumulation of aggravating factors, such as surfing (they confuse men with seals), going to their meet or swim at dawn (when they hunt the most).
This observation clearly shows that what we see in the films is very exaggerated (even if some are inspired by freezing real stories). In reality, if there are people who die each year from shark injuries, this remains exceptional, especially given the number of people on the beaches! Swimming alongside sharks has even become a tourist activity (admittedly with a share of risk) attracting more and more people …
Films like Survival Instinct or the Teeth of the Sea saga (not to mention the many nanars and other sci-fi films) are not realistic, because they make the shark a predator seeking at all costs to devour humans! However, in reality, the sharks prefer by far the very fatty flesh of seals … The famous phrase of oceanographers perfectly sums up what can be answered about the problem of the article:
“You shouldn’t wonder why sharks attack humans, but why they don’t attack them more often …”
There are, however, a few realistic shark movies, like The Reef or the first Open Water, which show characters lost in the sea not immediately attacked: predators (a large white in the first and several smaller sharks in the second ) watch them long hours before taking action. In addition, the sharks of these films have not been reconstructed in computer-generated images or constructed in animatronics.
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If cinema transforms reality, it remains pleasant to be afraid with all this mythology of the shark which started with the masterpiece of Steven Spielberg released in 1975: the seas are places where we are not in our environment natural, which makes us more vulnerable. The seventh art could not ignore such a fear potential, at the risk of transmitting an erroneous image of these predators.