With their black eyes and rows of teeth, it’s easy to understand why many people fear sharks, but our view of these creatures is actually hurting their chances for survival.
A new analysis determined that negative media reports about sharks and shark attacks are hindering shark conservation efforts. According to the analysis, Australian and U.S. news articles are more likely to focus on shark attacks than on shark conservation issues.
Shark populations are declining worldwide as they suffer from the effects of climate change and an increase in demand for shark fin soup, but they also “suffer from a negative public image,” the authors write. “Our results highlight problems for shark conservation.”
The research team located shark-related articles published in 20 major U.S. and Australian newspapers between 2000 and 2010 and randomly chose 300 to analyze.
- Over half (52 percent) were about shark attacks
- Sharks were portrayed negatively in 59 percent of the articles
- Only 11 percent of the articles were about shark conservation
- Only 19 percent involved positive topics about sharks (like aquarium exhibits)
- Significantly more Australian newspapers focused on shark attacks
- Significantly more US articles focused on sharks for entertainment (movies, books and TV)
The authors conclude that “most news coverage in both Australia and the United States continues to emphasize risks from sharks rather than the reverse.”
To learn more:
- Find the analysis, published in the journal Conservation Biology, here: Australian and U.S. news media portrayal of sharks and their conservation
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