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Negative impact of media on shark conservation efforts

Discuss about the Sharks and their Conservation for News Media.

The decline in the marine species’ abundance has negative impacts on the marine processes and systems, for instance, the trophic downgrading and this affects the oceans’ ability to supply ecosystem services (McCauleyet al., 2015). Most shark species are of a great conservational concern because they are top predators. The negative opinions about the sharks and the shark-attack threats pose a great barrier towards conservation efforts of the sharks. Politicians, scientists, and conservation organizations, as well as fishers, show great concerns towards the risks of the worldwide population of the sharks, therefore, shark conservation has become a worldwide policy priority that is conducted by the social scientists (Muter, Gore, Gledhill, Lamont, and Huveneers, 2013).

The media has been harsh to the sharks and this has affected the sharks’ survival, the U.S and Australian news articles focus on the negative reports that feature sharks’ attacks rather than focusing on the conservation of the sharks (Grassmann, McNeil and Wharton, 2017). Entertainment and news have spread the negative picture of the sharks and have amplified the public’s fear via documentaries and newspaper stories with imagery and headlines that are sensationalistic. Allowing the negative reports to control the news’ coverage encourages diversion of the publics’ attention from the key issues, for instance, the decline of the population of sharks that are facing extinction (Hamman, Woolaston, and Lewis, 2017). The study suggests that more than 52% of the global analysis focuses on attacks on the people by the sharks and it also suggests that the negativity towards the sharks is nearly 60%. On the other hand, only 10% of the news focuses on the shark conservation articles and only 7% of the news focuses on the articles about shark ecology or biology (Rueda, 2012). To this extent, the media has affected the attitude of people towards wildlife conservation,  the tiger sharks, white sharks and bull sharks which are the species normally associated with the human attacks are frequently cited in the US and Australian articles (Curtis, 2012). However, the gray nurse sharks which are the shark species that require great conservational concerns and are listed as species that are endangered in the New South Wales by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) do not receive a great coverage (Smith, Scarr and Scarpaci, 2010).

The media impresses fear towards the sharks, as they tend to focus on the negativity of the sharks rather than analyzing the conservation of the sharks. However, some people argue that not all sharks are frightening enemies as there are also other threatening issues that affect people such as snakebites and lightening. Shark activists claim that the sharks eat disabled and injured fish in the ocean and the sharks’ hunting ensures that the other fish are not overpopulated in the ocean and this has ensured the protection of other ocean creatures as well as plants (Castro, 2016). The environmental activists are worried that some fish species (precisely the gray nurse sharks) are in danger of extinction as it is estimated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that over a hundred million sharks are killed through fishing per year (Heller, 2015). The sharks are fished for their fins, cartilage, and meat as well as their liver oil. The International Shark Attack File led by George Burgess at the Museum of Florida states that there is reduced shark attacks in the last few years (about two years) and this is linked to the decreased population of the sharks in the oceans due to overfishing of the sharks and the related fish. Another reason for reduced shark attacks is associated with the increased cautionary action taken by the people to avoid sharks. The sharks are greatly affected by climate change, pollution, overfishing and habitat loss, this is because the sharks experience late maturity age, slow-growth rates, low outputs of reproduction and long periods of gestation (Keefer, 2016).

Sharks as important top predators

In the original journal that is published states the shark-associated risks, it identifies that; there are 14 risk types towards the sharks and 4 risk types from the sharks this statistic is omitted in the media article. However, both the journal and the article talk about the elevated public threat perceptions and the fear towards the sharks as a result of media influence (Chapman, Feldheim, Papastamatiou and Hueter, 2015).  The original journal gives the percentage of the threats from the sharks, for instance, shark-associated human fatalities at n = 92, 31% and shark-associated human injuries at n = 98, 33% this data is not mentioned in the media article. The published journal goes further to give the percentages of threats towards the sharks, for example, shark finning at n = 21, 7%, commercial fisheries at n = 16, 5%, physical injury to sharks at n=49, 16% and sharks as bycatch at n = 11, 4%, this information is excluded in the media article. The original journal gives a precise comparison of the US and the Australian articles, it states that most Australian articles treat shark conservation and attack issues as the essential topics of the articles while the US articles highlight sharks as entertainment, this information is not stated in the media article (Dulvy et al, 2014).

The content analyzing method (involving the examination of the information’s content in the documents such as newspapers and television texts) is not described in the media article, for this reason, the retrieval of the information in the media article is not clearly demonstrated (Van Dijk, 2013). The identification of shark-associated articles that are published in the main newspapers in the US and in Australia require the use of the LexisNexis which is an electronic search device that ensures efficient identification of information. The data and information present in the media article are not shown on how it was identified from the major articles in the US and in Australia this makes the information in the media article vague (Brandtzæg, 2010).

Conclusion

The media has been harsh to the sharks and this has affected the sharks’ survival, the U.S and Australian news articles focus on the negative reports that feature sharks’ attacks rather than focusing on the conservation of the sharks. The sharks are greatly affected by various factors such as climate change and overfishing, they are vulnerable to this harsh conditions because they experience late maturity age, slow-growth rates, and low outputs of reproduction as well as long periods of gestation (Hueter and Tyminski, 2014). Evidence from the comparison of the originally published journal and the media article indicates that the media article is vague as it does not explain some information in detail and has omitted some statistical data.  A clear understanding of the media article can be done by conducting a case study and giving precise data as well as detailed information about the Australian and the US articles (Guardians, 2012).

The media's negative portrayal of sharks

References

Media article: Michigan State University. "Sharks: Bad creatures or bad image?" ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121107145924.htm>.

Peer-reviewed journal article: Bret A. Muter, Meredith L. Gore, Katie S. Gledhill, Christopher Lamont, Charlie Huveneers. Australian and U.S. News Media Portrayal of Sharks and Their Conservation. Conservation Biology, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01952.x

Brandtzæg, P. B. (2010). Towards a unified Media-User Typology (MUT): A meta-analysis and review of the research literature on media-user typologies. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(5), 940-956.

Castro, J. I. (2016). The Origins and Rise of Shark Biology in the 20th Century. Marine Fisheries Review, 78(1-2), 14-34

Chapman, D. D., Feldheim, K. A., Papastamatiou, Y. P., & Hueter, R. E. (2015). There and back again: a review of residency and return migrations in sharks, with implications for population structure and management. Annual review of marine science, 7, 547-570.

Curtis, T. H., Bruce, B. D., Cliff, G., Dudley, S. F., Klimley, A. P., Kock, A., ... & Lowe, C. G. (2012). Responding to the risk of White Shark attack. Global Perspectives on the Biology and Life History of the, 477-510.

Dulvy, N. K., Fowler, S. L., Musick, J. A., Cavanagh, R. D., Kyne, P. M., Harrison, L. R., ... & Pollock, C. M. (2014). Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays. Elife, 3.

Grassmann, M., McNeil, B., & Wharton, J. (2017). Sharks in Captivity: The Role of Husbandry, Breeding, Education, and Citizen Science in Shark Conservation. In Advances in marine biology (Vol. 78, pp. 89-119). Academic Press.

Guardians, W. (2012). Petition to List the Northeastern Pacific Ocean Distinct Population Segment of Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) under the US Endangered Species Act.

Hamman, E., Woolaston, K., & Lewis, B. (2017). Legal responses to human-wildlife conflict: The precautionary principle, risk analysis and the ‘lethal management’of endangered species.

Heller, M. (2015). An Exploration of Effective Messaging for Shark Conservation.

Hueter, R. E., & Tyminski, J. P. (2014). Issues and options for whale shark conservation in Gulf of Mexico and western Caribbean waters of the US, Mexico and Cuba: A background paper prepared for Environmental Defense Fund. Mote Technical Report; 1633.

Keefer, A. D. (2016). We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: How Federal Regulations of Shark Fishing Tournaments Could Shift the Tides of Conservation Initiatives. Jeffrey S. Moorad Sports LJ, 23, 291.

McCauley, D. J., Pinsky, M. L., Palumbi, S. R., Estes, J. A., Joyce, F. H., & Warner, R. R. (2015). Marine defaunation: animal loss in the global ocean. Science, 347(6219), 1255641.

Muter, B. A., Gore, M. L., Gledhill, K. S., Lamont, C., & Huveneers, C. (2013). Australian and US news media portrayal of sharks and their conservation. Conservation Biology, 27(1), 187-196.

Rueda, P. (2012). The conservation of key species and the cultural and economic implications thereof: the case of shark finning. Master en sciences et Gestion de l’Environnement. Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

Smith, K., Scarr, M., & Scarpaci, C. (2010). Grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus) diving tourism: tourist compliance and shark behaviour at Fish Rock, Australia. Environmental Management, 46(5), 699-710.

Van Dijk, T. A. (2013). News analysis: Case studies of international and national news in the press. Routledge.

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