Shark bites and public attitudes

Published online on 20. July 2012

Short Communication

Shark bites and public attitudes: Policy implications from the first before and after shark bite survey

Christopher L. Neff, Jean Y.H. Yang


Public feelings toward sharks are expected to grow negatively following shark bites on humans. Media and government responses are often predicated on this presumptive emotional response; however, there have been no published data on attitudes toward sharks following shark bite incidents. This study shows that levels of “pride” in white shark populations in the absence of an incident remained steady after a shark bite occurred. This was consistent across response areas regarding other marine life and “confidence” in beach safety programs. Results are based on a pilot survey conducted in the Cape Town beach suburbs of Fish Hoek and Muizenberg before and after a shark bite at Fish Hoek beach. The study found no statistical significance between survey responses and the occurrence of the shark bite incident. The results indicate a previously undocumented level of public sophistication following these events. This data challenges the underlying basis of policy responses to shark bites and suggests that new considerations of public knowledge, endemic value and causal narratives should be incorporated into decision making.

Marine Policy – Article in Press



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