The Blog

Let's Feed Fat People to the Sharks and the Real Odds of a Shark Attack

Are the chances of death by shark attack really so low that it's not worth worrying about? With two fatal attacks in Australia very close together, it doesn't really feel like it.

Are the chances of death by shark attack really so low that it's not worth worrying about? With two fatal attacks in Australia very close together, it doesn't really feel like it.

I'm a surfer so every time there's an attack, I reassure myself with the stats. That you're several times more likely to choke on a ballpoint pen, and be crushed by a vending machine. Maybe if vending machines had teeth, like sharks do, we'd be more scared of them and obesity wouldn't be such a problem.

Apparently you're even more likely to win the lottery, to be attacked by a shark.

But are you really?

These stats are based on the assumption that every person in Australia is at equal risk of a shark attack.

However, that's not true. Based on who gets bitten, you need to be a regular ocean swimmer, surfer or scuba diver.

Which is definitely not everyone. If it were, perhaps obesity in this country wouldn't be such a problem. On the rare trips that fattys might make to the beach, they're doing little else apart from bobbing around in the water, perhaps acting as a floating device, and requiring more sunscreen than a primary school.

So let's put together some more accurate stats. In recent times, there's been around four fatal shark attacks in Australia every year. The population of Australia is 22 million and then let's say one person out of every two hundred is a regular ocean user.

Based on these numbers, the chance of death by shark are one in 27,500. Certainly not in the millions, and far lower than death by pen or vending machine.

The chance of being struck by lightening is half a million to one. Being killed by a terrorist on a plane is 25 million to one. Winning the lottery? That's eight million to one.

Dying a car accident? Or that an asteroid will extinguish all life on earth in the next 100 years? Both are 5,000 to one. (By the way, these stats aren't just from Wikipedia. I did actual research.)

Last time I checked, surfing was a lot more fun than both driving and asteroids. So I reckon I'll continue to take my chances and anyone who now thinks surfing is too risky, I expect that you'll stop driving and have plans to move to the moon.

Every day humans kill around 300,000 sharks. Per year, that's like totes heaps. Over 100 million, which means that really, they should be far more scared of us than we are of them.

There are sharks in the water, lots of them, and a lot of the time they choose not to eat us because they prefer just about anything else. To sharks, we taste like yuck.

However, as we continue overfishing the oceans, sharks may begin eating more people.

So here's an idea. In order to solve the obesity problem, and stop the sharks eating just anyone, maybe we should start feeding fat people to sharks?

Pick them out in a fatty lottery, and I'm guessing that in a very short time there would be a lot more people in the gym, and a lot less people asking for value meal upgrades and seatbelt extensions on planes.

Maybe if sharks were getting us in our homes, then I'd by up for some sort of shark cull. At the moment though, we're going to where they live, so it's up to respect their rules. Which include the very rare bit of bitey behaviour.

In recent times, the families of shark attack victims have also come out on the side of sharks, in one of the most difficult statements I can imagine any human would ever have to make.

If these people, who have suffered the greatest imaginable loss, still believe that we should be protecting sharks, then we should too. Despite the tiny risks.

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

His debut comedy non-fiction book about life on a FIFO mining site is available online now. Before being released in bookshops nationwide in 2014.

Read an excerpt here:

Buy it here:

Popular in the Community