Shark Bites and Public Policies
South Africa, USA, Australia
To examine how the social and political framing of shark attacks impacts the development of shark conservation policies in South Africa, the United States and Australia.
Why this is important:
Shark conservation efforts are put in a position where they are competing with fears and disproportionate risk perceptions that limit the social and political power of conservation and limit options and effectiveness.
The origin of this project begins and ends with my love of sharks and shark conservation. Since grade 3, I have had the card-board cut out of a shark above my bed; I am nearly 35 now.
However, the decision to do this unique research came from several data points: first, the fact that increasing losses to shark populations due to over-fishing and finning required more policy action and public support. Second, I realized that the connection between negative public attitudes about sharks and shark bite incidents was hindering shark conservation and needed to be addressed. And third, my Masters degree research (honours thesis) found that framing was a key element in the direction of shark management policy adoption. As a result, I decided to take a role in addressing these issues through social science research by beginning a ‘first of its kind’ doctoral dissertation. As I began outlining this research, I contacted leading shark researchers, scientists and conservations to gain input. I communicated over email with Mike Scholl, Leonard Compagno, Greg Skomal, and Mike Sutton. Each gave valuable insight and encouraged me to address the social aspects of shark conservation.
I began my research in March, 2010 including attending the Sharks International Conference in Cairns, doing archival research at the NSW Fisheries Department and submitting journal article manuscript of my research comparing policy responses following shark bite incidents in NSW in 1934 and 2009.
Lastly, I have been empowered by initial findings which note a growing problem with the trend toward additional drum lines and bottom set lines on beaches. These new policies could be disastrous for sharks. Without established best practices for shark management these are the kinds of policy solutions that could harm shark conservation.
Aims and Objectives
The general aim of my project for the coming year is to perform field work and data collection in South Africa, the United States and in Australia that will provide the foundation for my case study analysis, journal submissions and comparative research.
- Reviewing archival government documents on-site in Florida, Cape Town and New South Wales;
- Conducting formal interviews with policymakers and key stakeholders;
- Performing a content analysis on newspaper stories following specific shark bite incidents;
- Surveying beach-goers on public perceptions of risk;
- Publishing and presenting journal articles and conference papers on dissertation chapters.
Over the past two years, support from the Save Our Seas Foundation has provided me with an extraordinary opportunity to develop my social science research, which asks the question: how do the public and governments respond to shark bites? I…
It has been an eventful few months regarding my research on the “politics of shark attacks.” I have had my first journal article on the history of responses to shark bites in Australia published in the Coastal Management Journal. I…
By Christopher Neff There are no simple explanations when sharks bite people. These random acts of nature are traumatic and terrifying. This week the Cape Town community showed resolve and strength in responding to a dreadful incident on Wednesday (28…