Leader comment: The real fear about sharks

A hammerhead shark (Picture: Getty)
A hammerhead shark (Picture: Getty)
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“We’re going to need a bigger boat.” The line from the film Jaws says a lot about our attitudes towards sharks.

The fictional great white was so huge, so ferocious that it was capable of sinking a fishing boat.

Overblown ideas about the dangers of sharks have helped demonise an animal that is far more at risk from humans than we are from them.

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A 2014 study found a quarter of the world’s shark and ray species were threatened with extinction. So news that great hammerheads, longfin makos and goblin sharks are all likely to be swimming in British waters by 2050 as sea temperatures rise should not be overly alarming in of itself.

However, as the problems caused by invasive species like giant hogweed demonstrate, the arrival of any newcomer in an ecosystem can lead to considerable disruption.

And the same pressures that are prompting the sharks to move north are also affecting land animals whose ability to travel significant distances is often curtailed by roads, cities and other infrastructure.

So being bitten by a hammerhead shark may turn out to be the least of our worries.

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