Attitudes About Great White Sharks Changing, Says Ocearch Founder

Posted on Friday, August 11, 2017 12:50 PM

The fact that a nearly 10-foot long great white shark was detected in the waters of the Bay of Fundy off Saint John this week might evoke the dramatic Jaws theme song to start playing in your head, but should it have you running for the shore?

Chris Fischer is founding chairman and expedition leader of shark-tracking and research organization Ocearch, and he says the answer to that is simply no.

"It's kind of an irrational fear that doesn't statistically exist but it just strikes some sort of primal nerve in all of us," says Fischer.

"Several hundred people a year die from dogs. You would never go near a farm or any sort of livestock or tractor, and in fact, you would not even make toast. 400 people a year die from defective toasters. So if you're worried about swimming and having a shark interaction you should be terrified to make toast."

From 1990 to 2013 there have been 35 fatal unprovoked great white shark attacks worldwide, meantime, thousands of these sharks are killed every year by humans, especially for shark fin soup. Fischer says the biggest thing you need to be freaked out by is an ocean that's not full of these large white sharks which he describes as the 'balance keepers' which keep the second tier predators from wiping out fish and shellfish industries.

"I think the movies of the past and the fear of the unknown have created that disposition but we're replacing that unknown with all these facts and understanding now and hopefully shifting the tone of the conversation," says Fischer, who tells us he believes that attitudes about sharks are changing.

The great white shark that was detected off Saint John, which is named George, was named after Fischer's father. Another great white, named Mary Lee, was named after his mom. These sharks also have their own Twitter accounts which you can follow.

"People are saying, Mary Lee the shark, Lydia, Hilton, George, come back we love having you visit and years ago you simply wouldn't have those conversations," says Fischer.