Monday, July 28, 2014

Sharks at Cape Cod, or, We Love Predators

Back when we were often hungry, we hated the predators that stole our sheep and competed with us for deer. Now that we are overfed and safe, we have started to love predators. They are exciting and wild and free, all the things we crave. This is the era of The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. Back when Jaws was made there weren't any great white sharks in coastal New England, because the seals, their favorite food, had been wiped out by fishermen. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 ended the slaughter of seals in U.S. waters, and the gray seals gradually came back. Now there are lots of them, and great whites have started coming back to the waters off Cape Cod to feed on them.

But are we scared? No. We are much more excited by the prospect of seeing a great white shark than we are afraid of being bitten by one. Seal watching tours are crowded with people actually hoping to see, not a seal, but a shark, and better yet a shark killing and eating a seal. The merchandisers of Cape Cod have caught on, and now you can get everything from slippers to hats with shark logos. Eventually, a shark is going to kill somebody, because that does happen every now and then; I wonder if that will have any effect on the enthusiasm for Carcharodon carcharias.

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