Thank God they didn’t know how to run a government. It could have been a lot worse.

When a shark bit or killed a swimmer, people within the past century might take out hundreds of the marine predators to quell the panic, like executing everyone in a police lineup in order to ensure justice was dispensed on the guilty party.

Eric Clua, a professor of marine biology at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, said the rationale behind shark culls in the past was simple: fewer sharks, fewer attacks. That reasoning also drives methods such as shark nets and baited hooks, which are currently in use at a number of Australian and South African beaches that are frequently visited by sharks. […]

Dr. Clua said he has found a way to make precision strikes on sharks that have attacked people through a form of DNA profiling he calls “biteprinting.” He believes it’s usually just solo “problem sharks” that attack humans repeatedly, analogizing them to terrestrial predators that have been documented behaving the same way. […]

This summer, Dr. Clua and several colleagues published their latest paper on collecting DNA from the biteprints of large numbers of sharks. Once a database is built, DNA could be collected from the wounds of people who were bitten by sharks, and matched to a known shark. The offending fish would then need to be found and killed.

Critics have taken issue with every facet of this plan. […]

the “rogue shark” theory, popularized by Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” has been debunked. […] the existence of problem sharks has never been proven. […] removing these guilty sharks “would be near impossible” […] Dr. Clua’s proposal would cost billions of dollars to implement on a meaningful scale in Australia, South Africa or the United States […]

However people react when shark attacks do occur, Dr. Shiffman offered the reminder that such incidents are rare. According to the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, there were 64 unprovoked attacks on humans last year and 41 provoked attacks, meaning that a person “initiates interaction with a shark in some way.”

Five of the attacks were fatal. More people are killed by falling trees in the U.S. every year.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }