- The Discovery Channel’s ‘Shark Week’ is now in its 31st year.
- Unprovoked shark attacks are rare, fatal attacks even more so.
- 2018 saw a decline in shark attacks worldwide yet mainstream media hysteria continues.
People remain fascinated by sharks and that’s why the Discovery Channel’s annual ‘Shark Week’ has been such an enduring hit. It’s now in its 31st year and showing no signs of slowing down. The public loves the wall to wall shark programming and the ratings reflect this. ‘Shark Week 2019’ is now underway and there’s every reason to think it’ll be another ratings smash for the network:
Last year, Shark Week made a big ratings splash for its 30th anniversary, reaching 34.9M Total Viewers across Total Day. Shark Week 2019 will take viewers to the depths of the ocean in search of Deep Blue.
This wasn’t a one off fluke. Just check out the abundance of ‘Shark Week tops the ratings’ stories at TVByTheNumbers if you need more validation that this is a major event.
SHARK ATTACK HYSTERIA HAS BECOME AN ANNUAL TRADITION
During the past decade, a clear sign that Summer is approaching is the dubious phenomenon of mainstream media shark hysteria. What happens is that someone, somewhere near a beach sees a shark and people lose their minds. One of the United States’ current hotbeds of shark attack insanity is Cape Cod. You see, ‘The Cape’ saw a whopping two shark attacks last year including one fatality. While anyone with the slightest understanding of math realizes that this is statistically insignificant, some locals have reacted as if the beaches are under siege. Making matters worse, the mainstream media fans these flames of lunacy. Here’s some coverage of the ‘shark menace’ facing Cape Cod earlier this year:
Shark Attacks Overshadow Cape Cod Tourist Season
Cape Cod Communities Taking Action to Prevent Deadly Shark Attacks
Cape Cod Surfers Train to Become Shark Attack First Responders
Shark Fever has Arrived on Cape Cod
As Summer Begins, Specter of Shark Attacks Looms Over Cape Cod
After Shark Attacks, is Cape Cod Ready For Tourist Season?
Why Shark Attacks Could Rise Around the World
So on and so forth. Despite the fact that the International Shark Attack File–one of the more comprehensive data sources on the topic–reports that Massachusetts has had 6 unprovoked shark attacks since 1837 the tone of the local media is that a beach blanket bloodbath is likely for the state. All the more amazing–the hysterical media reports often cite the International Shark Attack File but seldom bother to read such topics as ‘Shark Attacks in Perspective’:
“Many more people are injured and killed on land while driving to and from the beach than by sharks in the water. Shark attack trauma is also less common than such beach-related injuries as spinal damage, dehydration, jellyfish and stingray stings and sunburn. Indeed, many more sutures are expended on sea shell lacerations of the feet than on shark bites!”
For some reason I don’t recall seeing much hysteria over sea shell lacerations. While there have been a few media reports that put the true risk of shark attack into perspective–this one at Forbes is particularly good–they’re few and far between.
THE MEDIA ACTS LIKE A BEACHFRONT BLOODBATH IS UNDERWAY, THE STATISTICS PROVE OTHERWISE
Do a Google search on ‘shark bite’ or ‘shark attack’ and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of hysterical media reports from all over the country. Some of these actually put the risk in context. For example, this report from the San Francisco Chronicle explains in detail the minimal risk of attack despite an increasing number of great white sharks along the California coast:
With landmark levels of sightings and encounters with fish-eating juvenile great white sharks in Monterey Bay, off Half Moon Bay and even in San Francisco Bay, anticipation is high that large numbers of great white sharks will arrive arrive on schedule over the next three months.
Does that mean you could be in for a close encounter? Probably not — the statistical odds are remote.
Responsible reporting like this is the exception rather than the rule. The general tone is that shark attacks are dramatically increasing in number putting beach-goers at risk. This is the same media coverage routine every Summer but once the statistics are compiled an analyzed invariably the number of shark attacks is within an expected range. In fact, 2018 saw a significant drop in the number of confirmed, unprovoked shark attacks worldwide–66 compared to a five year average of 84. So far this year? More of the same. As of July 24, there have been a total of 37 confirmed and unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2019.
THE RISK OF SHARK ATTACKS IN 2019
Relatively speaking, being killed by a shark is significantly more likely than being killed by a foreign terrorist. Not that this is particularly meaningful. For all US citizens, the odds of being killed by a shark is around 1 in 7 million. If you live within 100 miles of the coast, it’s a ‘whopping’ 1 in 3.7 million. Here’s a list of the odds of dying of specific causes throughout an individual’s lifetime:
Odds of being killed
|by the flu||1 in 70|
|in a car accident||1 in 111|
|by accidental gunshot||1 in 8,359|
|by sun/heat exposure||1 in 13,729|
|by a tornado||1 in 60,000|
|by a bee sting||1 in 79,842|
|by an earthquake||1 in 110,000|
|by drowning in your bathtub||1 in 840,000|
|by a flesh eating bacteria||1 in 1 million|
|by an asteroid||1 in 1.9 million|
|by a shark attack||1 in 3.7 million|
|by a foreign born terrorist in the US illegally||1 in 46.1 million|
It is downright bizarre that humans are still afraid of shark attacks. At one point in the evolutionary process it made at least a little bit of sense. When humans were forced to endure long journeys by sea to get anywhere worth going they faced danger from not only sharks but countless other natural forces including weather and the ocean itself. Early shark attacks were likely no more prevalent than they were today (in fact, there’s a good case to be made that they were less common) but were often conflated with mythical creatures such as ‘sea serpents’. If someone disappeared at sea human nature wanted an explanation and with none forthcoming these hapless souls turned toward their own mythical creations.
Fast forward to 2019 and the fact that anyone is seriously worried about shark attacks is borderline comical. A random American citizen has a statistically insignificant chance of being involved in a fatal shark attack. Living on or near the coasts makes it somewhat more likely but still statistically insignificant as we’ll discuss in a moment. It would be nice to affirm that humanity has evolved beyond this type of behavior but they haven’t as witnessed by the prevalence of Americans to swallow the propaganda about the virtually non-existent risk off harm by foreign terrorists hook, line and sinker. Compared the 1 in 46.1 million chance of being the victim of a fatal attack by a foreign terrorist being afraid of sharks looks logical by comparison.
In honor of ‘Shark Week’ the oddsmakers here at SPORTSINSIDER.COM have come up with a special prop bet that asks ‘how many shark bites will be reported during ‘Shark Week 2019?’. In addition, we’ve updated the set of shark attack 2019 betting odds we posted earlier this year. In most cases, the chance of a significant increase of shark attacks from 2018 has been downgraded.
DISCOVERY CHANNEL ‘SHARK WEEK’ 2019 BETTING ODDS
NUMBER OF UNPROVOKED SHARK ATTACKS REPORTED WORLDWIDE DURING THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL’S ‘SHARK WEEK 2019’?(JULY 28 AT 12:01 AM EDT TO AUGUST 4 AT 11:59 PM EDT)
Over 3.5 +130
Under 3.5 -150
SHARK ATTACKS 2019 BETTING ODDS (REVISED JULY 28, 2019)
TOTAL NUMBER OF REPORTED UNPROVOKED SHARK ATTACKS WORLDWIDE IN 2019?
Over 83.5 +210
Under 83.5 -250
WILL THE NUMBER OF REPORTED SHARK ATTACKS WORLDWIDE IN 2019 BREAK THE ALL TIME YEARLY RECORD OF 98 REPORTED IN 2015?
PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL SHARK ATTACKS EXPERIENCED BY SURFERS IN 2019?
Over 53.5% -150
Under 53.5% +130
Activity in the Global Shark Attack File incident log must specifically indicate ‘surfing’. Any other water borne activity will not be included in total.
US STATE WITH THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF REPORTED UNPROVOKED SHARK ATTACKS IN 2019?
South Carolina +1000
North Carolina +1700
New Jersey +3500
New York +5000
Any Other State +25000
US COUNTY WITH THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF REPORTED UNPROVOKED SHARK ATTACKS IN 2019
Volusia County, Florida (Daytona area) -200
Brevard County, Florida (Cocoa Beach area) +350
Maui County, Hawaii +500
Palm Beach County, Florida +1000
Charleston County, South Carolina +1750
Honolulu County, Hawaii +2100
Horry County, South Carolina (Myrtle Beach) +3500
New Hanover County, North Carolina (Wilmington) +3500
St. Johns County, Florida (St. Augustine Beach) +5000
Barnstable County, Massachusetts (Cape Cod) +10000
NUMBER OF UNPROVOKED SHARK ATTACKS REPORTED IN FLORIDA IN 2019?
Over 21.5 +300
Under 21.5 -350
NUMBER OF UNPROVOKED SHARK ATTACKS REPORTED IN AUSTRALIA IN 2019
Over 17.5 +150
Under 17.5 -180
AUSTRALIAN STATE/TERRITORY WITH THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF REPORTED UNPROVOKED SHARK ATTACKS IN 2019?
New South Wales +125
Western Australia +300
South Australia +2500
Northern Territory +2500