Sharks Are Not Bad, They Just Get Bad Publicity

Conservation efforts are crippled by how the media portrays these animals

According to a new report made public by specialists working with the Michigan State University, the media has thus far failed to do justice to sharks.

More precisely: it helped increase the public's fear of these animals and thus crippled the efficiency of various conservation projects.

This new study is published in the current issue of the journal Conservation Biology, and states that, at least as far as Australian and US newspaper articles are concerned, sharks more often than not “star” in negative reports.

Specialist Meredith Gore explains that these negative reports tend to steal the spotlight, and make issues such as the global decline in the shark population fade into the background.

In other words, regardless of the fact that sharks attack humans quite rarely, the event receives so much media attention that it blows out of proportion.

As she puts it, “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. To the extent that media reflect social opinion, this is problematic for 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,” she goes on to explain.

According to their estimates, 52% of the newspaper articles focusing on sharks spoke about their attacking swimmers, surfers or fishermen.

On the other hand, only 10% of the newspaper articles taken into consideration for this study went through the trouble of pinning down key aspects in terms of shark conservation.

Given the fact that many shark species are now being threatened with extinction as a result of overfishing, pollution or destruction of their natural habitats and climate change, Meredith Gore believes that it is of utmost importance that the media start drawing attention to issues such as shark biology and ecology.

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