Shark Week’s Megalodon and Sharknado are fake, but are shark attacks increasing?

SharknadoUnless you were living under a rock, it was hard to escape the onslaught of shark news this summer, between the Discovery Channel’s latest foray to beef up their now infamous “Shark Week,” Megalodon, and SyFy’s Sharknado. While both efforts were fake, many continue to question whether or not shark attacks are increasing.

The truth about a “sharknado”

While both shows—Megalodon and Sharknado—garnered a lot of attention, the campiness of disaster flick Sharknado, in which a freak storm causes man-eating sharks to infest Los Angeles inside waterspouts, seems to have really captured the collective imagination. So could such a thing as a sharknado actually happen? According to the experts writing at the blog Deep Sea News, the answer to whether or not Megalodon exists is a resounding no, however science has yet to fully disprove the possibility of a sharknado.

Dr. Kim Martini, in “Recipe for a Sharknado,” posted on August 9, 2013 for Deep Sea News, explained, “While we here at Deep Sea News utterly disliked the Discovery Channel fiction-presented-as-fact documentary Megalodon we couldn’t help but love SyFy’s ‘fiction-presented-as-campy-AWESOME‘ that was Sharknado.” Here’s her breakdown of fact from fiction when it comes to the reality of a sharknado:

  1. A tornadic water spout can happen.
  2. The number of sharks a tornado can hold is equal to the number of sharks it flies over.
  3. Tornadic water spouts don’t typically suck up water, so a tornado isn’t going to be able to suck up a Great White either.
  4. The vertical wind velocities of a tornado could, however, support the weight of a Great White, and certainly a smaller shark.

Dr. Martini concluded, “a tornado can’t suck up sharks to make a Sharknado, but if it could there would be a lot of them.”

Surge in shark attacks

So maybe we don’t have to worry about giant shark-filled vortexes rising from our oceans and pummeling our cities and towns. But what is the reality when it comes to shark attacks? Are they on the rise?

Seattle Times contributor Oskar Garcia wrote on August 21, 2013, in “Surge in shark attacks worries Hawaii officials, prompts study” about plans for a two year study of tiger shark movements around Maui because of a spike in shark attacks since the beginning of 2012. So far in 2013, there have been eight shark attacks in that area. There were 10 attacks in 2012.

The study in the waters around Maui will be led by Dr. Carl Meyer, a marine biologist with the University of Hawaii. Meyer shared that “tiger sharks can travel up to 100 miles in a day, don’t stay in one area very long and can swim in very shallow waters if they choose to.” The hope is that the study will help determine what steps need to be taken to minimize contact between the sharks and people.

The human toll

The attention is on Hawaii because of a recent attack on a young German tourist. The 20-year-old woman, Jana Lutteropp, lost her arm during a shark attack while snorkeling off Palauea Beach in Makena on August 14, 2013. She died a week later on August 22, 2013.

Rob Williams wrote on August 22, 2013, for the IndependentGerman tourist Jana Lutterpopp dies a week after losing arm in Maui shark attack” about the tragedy. Williams reported that witnesses to the attack were not able to determine what kind of shark attacked Lutterpopp. He noted, “The last time someone in Hawaii died from a shark attack was in 2004…. The last fatal attack before that was in 1992.”

The weekend after the attack on Lutterpopp, a teenage surfer suffered injuries to both legs from a shark attack off of Hawaii’s Big Island.

Want to scout out where shark attacks happen most frequently? The top areas around the world for shark attacks, according to the International Shark Attack File, are Australia, the Bahamas, Brazil, California, Florida, Hawaii, North and South Carolina, and South Africa.

Should we be afraid of sharks in the ocean, or are we merely swimming in their world? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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