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That Wasn't a Shark Attack, It Was a 'Negative Encounter'

Parts of Australia change their semantics
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2021 11:11 AM CDT

(Newser) – Australia sees its fair share of shark attacks. Or does it? Maybe what it actually sees its fair share of are shark "incidents" or "interactions." The new official tip sheet put out by the government of Queensland ditches the word "attacks" completely and instead advises people on how to minimize their risk of a "negative encounter with a shark." All of this is part of an ongoing debate in Australia about the semantics surrounding sharks, reports the Washington Post. Wildlife authorities say using "attacks" as a catch-all word for every unpleasant human-shark encounter is misleading and does a disservice to the creatures, whose numbers are on the decline. New South Wales also has shifted away from the term, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

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"It helps dispel inherent assumptions that sharks are ravenous, mindless man-eating monsters," says Leonardo Guida of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. He and others note that it is still a relatively rare occurrence for a shark to bite a human severely enough to cause serious injury, as the increasing prevalence of drone footage showing sharks swimming near people without incident might attest. One group not so pleased with the shift in semantics? Those who have been bitten. "You can't sanitize it too much," a spokesman for a survivors' group called the Bite Club tells the Morning Herald in a separate story. (Sharks nearly went the way of the dinosaurs.)

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