The major obstacle to the film’s success, however, is the reality itself.
A new pro-shark movie called Sent: Shark slaughter is about to hit big screens in Australia, tonight in fact.
The filmmakers claim that anyone who watches the film will become “an advocate against the QLD and NSW shark control programs.”
I haven’t seen the movie, but watching the trailer and a live webinar that aired last week gives me a good idea of the core elements of the argument. The argument is too strong a word, the film aims for maximum emotional punch to prove four things.
Sharks are not a danger to humans, and we shouldn’t be afraid of them.
The NSW * and QLD shark control programs (nets and reel lines) are both ineffective and obsolete.
Shark control programs using nets and drums are barbaric anachronisms of an old-fashioned outdated worldview.
The risk of a shark attack is so low that it hardly makes sense.
This is part of a worldview that sees the future of human-shark interactions as not that of human self-defense via control programs, but that of “coexistence”. To make this case sound, a major rebranding effort on behalf of sharks, given that they cannot speak or make films, is required.
I see the major obstacle to the film’s success as an advocacy for sharks, especially our favorite friend the white shark, as reality itself.
Let’s take a look at the ways.
First of all, a quick backup.
It is a common opinion in this corner of the woods that the whole shark scene has become a very nice bustle with many vested interests. In particular: baby sharks, certain scientists / lawyers, suppliers of certain products, etc. etc.
This film will only reinforce this impression, for good or for bad.
It’s funny what impact Jaws still does. According to scientists and filmmakers, the main reason we think sharks attack people is because of a (very good) Hollywood B-movie that is almost half a century old.
Never mind that half of the people who get bitten now weren’t alive when Jaws has been freed. It doesn’t matter whether the QLD shark program was introduced in 1962, thirteen years before Jaws came out or, in the case of the NSW shark program, more than half a century before it scared people.
The solution, scientists say, to this fear and inappropriate image is to change your language.
“The shark attacks”, according to Chrisso, “are a lie”.
This logic comes from Chris’s belief that the problem with shark attack risk is largely psychological and so if we change our mind by changing the language, the problem is solved.
The other angle on shark attacks is the historical one based on real reality i.e. evidence.
It involves surfers like Brad Smith, who, as a grown man in his prime, was torn to pieces by two whites at Lefthanders in 2004. According to the official record: Brad Smith was surfing with a pal and three other people when a large shark snapped his board in half, throwing him into the sea.
“Another big shark jumped out of the water and grabbed it and that’s it,” one netizen said.
Smith punched with his fists to try and keep the sharks at bay as they repeatedly attacked him.
Surfer Cameron Rowe, a 16-year-old who witnessed the attack, said: “These [sharks] were massive. When the first one got up a bit, I could see its fin and it was almost a meter high. When he got out of the water with Brad still fighting him I could see his body was about the width of a car and his open jaws were as wide as a man’s arm. . One of Smith’s friends, Mitch Campbell, 17, said: “It was the worst thing I have seen. There was so much confusion out there that it was impossible to tell which shark was attacking, but they kept coming towards him over and over again.Brad could be seen trying to punch them away.
But after just 45 seconds, Smith disappeared below the surface.
INJURY: Fatal. The surfer sustained serious injuries to his chest and a large bite to his leg. He suffered “massive injuries to his pelvis and abdomen,” according to a spokesperson for St. John’s Ambulance.
Other more recent fatal “bites” were also only recovered due to onlookers confronting Enlightened Whites who intended to drag the bite to Davy Jones’ locker.
But yes, no attacks.
According to Dr Leo Guida, a leading shark researcher for the Australian Marine Conservation Society and film expert, avoiding the term attacks “helps improve public understanding of sharks and their behavior.”
To which I would answer, yeah, but no.
If he quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, the audience is able to call him a duck.
There have been mixed messages in the rebranding.
According to an SMH article, the problem with sharks, which have swam in the ocean for 450 million years, is that they don’t recognize the most recently arrived humans. It seems very disrespectful to sharks, one of the most evolutionary top predators. Hominids have been on Earth for at least two million years.
Do these scientists think sharks are so stupid that they can’t learn to recognize a human in 2 million years?
It is clear from the trailer for the film that the segment of the general public whose minds need a change the most are surfers. The methodology here uses “A-listers” like Layne Beachley and Tom Carroll.
Layne makes the argument that shark nets are no longer relevant. The gist of Beachley Beef is that we use technology that is over fifty years old and we don’t accept that in any other area.
We have updated the abacus and carrier pigeon to calculators and I-phones. But what about the wheels on your car, Layne. Are we abandoning the wheel because it has been around forever?
The reason the nets stay is because they work.
This question of effectiveness will be the toughest battle against reality for filmmakers / lawyers. In the webinar used to promote the film, Dr Guida consistently referred to the science supporting the claim that the Queensland shark control program was not working and that there were alternatives ready to be deployed.
He implored the public to refer to the scientific review of alternatives commissioned by the Queensland government.
So I did.
It seemed pretty clear.
Extract from report: “There has been only one fatality and 27 unprovoked bites on a SCP (shark control program) protected beach since 1962. There have been 19 fatalities and 36 bites in the sea. all of Queensland before 1962. “
Unfortunately, do that two deaths after poor Nick Slater found himself gray in Greenmount in September of last year. If you’ve seen the video footage it’s hard to see, but I’m sure Chris Pepin-Neff could reclassify it to fit the new regime.
Nineteen dead before the nets and drums, two after. And this despite the huge increase in population and water use. The numbers don’t lie, it’s hard to rename them, and that will be the biggest hurdle for Sent.
The scientific report on the SCP QLD draws a conclusion that is obvious to almost anyone with a half-brain: “It is not unreasonable to conclude that local culls have reduced the risk of shark bite for users of shark bites. water by reducing the potential for overlap between water users and potentially dangerous sharks.
The film will take place on much firmer emotional ground, pitting the barbarity argument against nets and drums. Two hundred and fifty dolphins killed in nets over the past twenty years in Queensland alone. Harmless turtles, rays, hammerhead sharks, etc. etc.
All dead so people can play splash in the ocean.
I know this argument against bycatch will be powerful because I’ve seen it play in my hometown.
Ironically, despite Tom Carroll’s plea in Sent it was his brother Nick Carroll’s pro-net piece in Coastalwatch that was the decisive step in enabling a shark net trial at Lennox-Ballina in the summers of 16/17 and 17/18.
Equally decisive was the change in community sentiment against nets when the reality of bycatch was made public by the DPI. Local surfers didn’t want Flipper blood on their hands in exchange for safer surfing.
In the grand scheme of things, is dismantling the QLD and NSW shark control programs for the greater good?
I predict we will find out very soon because I believe the film will be overwhelmingly successful in changing public sentiment and politicians will have no choice but to step up a gear.
The next stage of “coexistence” will take place.
We will cede space and nature’s greatest predator will have won another battle, perhaps the most decisive.
I view this near future with pessimistic pragmatism.
Already, in the last half-decade, I know more people who have been attacked by whites than have been in car accidents. Extend that to the people who were there, to those who brought in friends, family and friends, and it’s an ever wider circle.
On the other hand. I don’t know anyone in this community who has had COIVD-19, died of a bee sting, fallen coconuts, love at first sight, or even drowning.
Statistics don’t make sense at the local level.
But the movie won’t deal with that.
The signs will go up: buyer beware. White shark territory. Enter at your own risk.
It is an argument which, once lost, will never be won again.
* Nets in Sydney area, Smart drumlines in northern New South Wales.