Are there rogue sharks?

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Tiger shark

The question is asking whether the shark attacks on people that we read about are the result of a small number of rogue sharks who have a grudge against the human race and repeatedly attack humans swimming offshore. One scientist believes that there is such an animal. His name is Prof Clua. He works at the Ecole Pratique des Huates Etudes in Paris. He is convinced that the deadly attacks by sharks are carried out by a very small number of problem sharks.

Tiger shark

Tiger shark. Photo: Pixabay.

He’s developed a technique for identifying these sharks. He is able to retrieve the DNA of the shark from the bite and he calls it “biteprinting”. He wants to create a database of sharks focusing on great white, tiger and bull sharks, the species most likely to attack people. From this database he wants to identify these problem sharks. They can then be eliminated. This will result in a significant decrease in the number of shark attacks.

He agrees that 95% of shark attacks are “not for a predation purpose but are usually superficial and not fatal. My focus is on the 5% that are for a predation purpose and most of the time fatal.”

Other experts disagree with him. They disagree with the concept of rogue sharks preying on humans. And the idea of building a database is unworkable they argue. For instance, they are large-bodied apex predators known to travel long distances. Catherine Macdonald, a lecturer in marine conservation biology at the University of Miami said that, “My team’s annual recapture rate for animals tagged is about 1%. I know I would not be able to go out and easily catch a specific individual shark.”

So the experts say two things against this concept namely (1) the problem is not with rogue sharks but with people getting in the way of sharks – people are not on the menu (Dr Pepin-Neff) and (2) the proposed database is unworkable and in any case is too hard to track down rogue sharks even if they did exist.

The conclusion of this discussion is that rogue sharks don’t exist meaning that this is not about individual sharks but about all sharks occasionally interacting with people with a negative outcome. It is the classic human-animal conflict.


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