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Living Lightly column

Jawsome Encounters

By Tess Middleton, Fin Free Albury Wodonga

The media so often sensationalises negative shark-human encounters that the positive, heart-warming stories often go unheard. In fact 60% of all shark stories are portrayed in a negative light. This could be for a number of reasons, most likely the “jaws” mentality.

The reality is that you have a higher chance of being killed by a falling coconut, taking a selfie, having a bath or even by a vending machine!

I thought I would share 3 positive shark-human encounter stories to help remove the negativity and jaws mentality that still lingers in the community.

In Florida, since 2015, every day that Randy Jordan, a dive guide and shark enthusiast, goes diving he is welcomed by a 2.5 meter Lemon Shark named Blondie. Every time Blondie sees Randy enter the water she will swim straight towards him! She has no interest in any food he may bring with him; she simply wants to be patted! Randy has said “as she swims over to me it looks as if she is smiling and if I don’t give her attention, she will gently bump me until I do”. Many of the Lemon sharks enjoy their head scratches by Randy has said Blondie is the most insistent!

Jim Abernathy, a photographer, author and conservationist discovered, while filming a documentary in Australia for National Geographic, that Tiger sharks love nothing more than a cuddle and a head scratch! While his team were diving with the Tiger Sharks, they discovered just how curious and puppy-like these sharks could be! They were filmed swimming up to Jim and his fellow divers to get endless cuddles and head scratches!

In 2014, on one of my trips to South Africa, I was diving with Pyjama sharks, a beautiful, bottom dwelling species of catshark, endemic to these waters. All of the sharks interacted with us but there was one who seemed especially fond of me and the feeling was mutual. She was swimming all around me and when she was finished she laid on my thigh to rest, just looking up at me. This was such a special moment and one of my favourite shark experiences.

These are just a few of countless experiences that prove sharks are nothing to fear and they, like all of us, just want to be loved and understood.