PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Experts say large sharks are migrating closer to shore, so are beachcombers and people swimming in the ocean at risk?
“The general public has a fear of sharks based on a lot of sensationalism that they’ve seen dating back to ‘Jaws,'” said Arielle Wiener, a shark keeper at PPG Aquarium.
Their look is frightfully intimidating and there’s no question that Hollywood’s successful branding of The Great White coupled with news that they’re patrolling off the eastern beaches gets people’s attention.
However, the PPG Aquarium has a dose of reality for the general public, starting with the primary misconception that they are mindless eating machines.
“They actually discern what is going on around them, they’re curious animals,” said Stuart Classen, Assistant Curator for Aquatic Life.
Wiener works with the Zebra Sharks at the aquarium where she frequently stands above and then inside the tank that holds the sharks and feeds them.
“We get them used to having something from above touch them so if we have to do it for any reason it doesn’t cause them any stress,” added Classen.
Experts here are not slow to busting the myths about shark attacks.
“There are 7 billion people on our planet and on average, there are only 100 involved with a shark attack annually and most of the time that’s a case of mistaken identity,” said Wiener. “Most of the time they realize ‘Oh my gosh, this isn’t what I want to eat. This isn’t a seal, this isn’t a sea lion.’ Then they’ll swim away, because we don’t taste yummy to them.”
Classen agrees that those fearing a shark attack, don’t have much to fear.
“You have a higher risk of being struck by lightning or having a vending machine fall on top of you to cause you injury than you do a shark attack,” he said.
The tracking tracking technology on the sharks spotted off the coast may be disconcerting at first blush, but incredibly practical and usable to scientist and tourist alike, according to Classen.
“If we know where they are going, we can start putting reasonable protections in place.”