A recent increase in the number of shark attacks across the U.S. this summer has led Fox News to warn the public about the supposed dangers of protecting marine ecosystems.
On the August 19 edition of Fox News’ America Reports, correspondent Gillian Turner dedicated just under three minutes of coverage to a throwaway piece fearmongering about the risk of shark attacks for beachgoers nationwide following a rise in shark encounters along the northeast of the country. Turner declared “the Summer of the Shark continues with more reports, more sightings, and attacks,” before kicking the segment over to Fox Weather reporter Katie Byrne to explain the increase in shark activity.
“People we're talking to are wondering why sharks are coming closer to the shore,” Byrne claimed, before adding, “Marine experts will say it could be because of water conservation efforts leading to thriving fish populations. So, more fish, more food for the sharks.”
While this explanation may be partly true, it would be a sign of positive change. Christopher Paparo, manager of the Marine Science Center at Stony Brook University, told CBS News in July, “If there are sharks in your area, it means it's a healthy ecosystem.” The increase in shark encounters, particularly in the area around New York City, has caused some alarm, but the actual risk sharks present to humans is incredibly small — you’re more than 40 times more likely to die from being struck by lightning than being bitten by a shark — and the benefits of conserving these species and their habitats are enormous.
Ocean conservation is also only part of the story; the Fox Weather correspondent somehow glossed over why sharks are appearing further north.
A recent study from Global Change Biology found that some sharks are venturing further north in the summertime due to rising water temperatures. While tiger sharks typically don’t migrate much further north than Virginia, according to Smithsonian Magazine, “The study found that the northern edges of the tiger shark’s preferred water temperature range — which measurements taken from thermometer-equipped shark tags suggest is between 78 and 82 degrees — has shifted about 186 miles poleward in the cold season and about 248 miles poleward in the warm season over the last 40 years.” This suggests climate change may play an important role in increasing shark encounters with humans. (Ocean conservation efforts are also important to managing the effects of global warming.)
Fox News’ climate change denial has only deepened as the effects of a warming atmosphere and oceans have become more apparent. The recent global heat wave produced a slew of misinformation from Fox News personalities who continue to deny the dangerous reality of rising temperatures. The rise in shark attacks is just the latest story Fox News has used to distract from climate science and dismiss environmental protections, including another segment just last month blaming conservationists for summer shark attacks.
We need conservation efforts to help deal with climate change since this is not something that we can fix with just a bigger boat.