Officials in Australia are rebranding shark “attacks” as “a negative encounter” as experts argue the former had given the nautical predators a bad reputation not based on science.
At least two of the six Australian states have reportedly changed the way they officially describe shark attacks. In New South Wales, the government’s shark reports now refer to shark “incidents” or “interactions,” and in Queensland, the state government refers to them as “a negative encounter,” Sky News reported.
Attendees at a shark symposium in Queensland were notified of the change in May, The Washington Post reported Friday.
Proponents argue the word “attack” has created a culture of fear around sharks, one often depicted in movies.
“Sharks are very curious animals,” Leonardo Guida, a shark biologist with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, told The Post. They “tend to have exploratory bites … and unfortunately — and sometimes tragically — us humans are quite soft.”
“The whole arena of shark-bite politics is manipulative,” Chris Pepin-Neff, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, told The Post. “Something terrible happens, and politicians make it worse by using hyped-up … language that describes sharks as movie monsters.”
Opponents say the change in wording could minimize the trauma suffered by shark-bite victims.
“You can’t sanitize it too much,” Dave Pearson, a spokesman for the shark-bite survivors’ group Bite Club, told the Sydney Morning Herald. “If we play down the severity of someone’s experience, it can disregard their trauma.”