Hammerhead Shark at Cocos Islands, Costa Rica (photo: Barry Peters)
Yesterday I linked to an article on a New Zealand scientist who sought to allay shark fears after a Waihi beach closure on 11 January:
When asked if he thought shark hysteria had gone too far, Duffy said: "If it has come to the point where people are closing beaches for a half metre, a 50cm shark, then yes it has."
The more cocooned we are by modern life, the less we seem capable of making sensible assessments of relative risk. To put it another way, if you drove to work every day, and swam at the beach every day, would you be more likely to die in a road accident, or die in a shark attack?
Last year, 254 people died on New Zealand's roads, while one person died in a shark attack in NZ waters. In the last five years, 1605 people have died on New Zealand roads, while in the last 167 years (since 1847 when records began) eleven people have been taken by sharks in NZ waters.
The people who went to Waihi Beach two days ago were at far greater risk of dying in a car accident, at the hands of another motorist, on their way to the beach, than of being taken by a shark at the beach. And yet, it's safe to say that most folk wouldn't have thought twice before hopping into their cars.