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Australian scientists seek to rebrand shark ‘attacks’: report

Australian scientists are looking to move away from “shark attacks” and are beginning to use terms such as “incidents” and “interactions” to describe the events, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald. 

“‘Shark attack’ is a lie,” Christopher Pepin-Neff from the University of Sydney told the Herald, noting that a large number of shark encounters are minor or leave no injury.

A spokesperson with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries told the outlet the agency “generally refers to ‘incidents’ or ‘interactions’ in our formal shark reporting.”

And at a symposium about sharks in the Noosa Shire area, a senior Queensland official in May asked that the wording be changed to shark “bites” instead of “attacks” for state communications, three scientists at the meeting told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Other scientists said such descriptions are more accurate because “shark attack,” they said, suggests that sharks are looking to consume people.

“Sharks don’t have hands so, if they want to explore something, they mouth it,” Nathan Hart, an associate professor at Macquarie University, told the outlet. “Very rarely are humans consumed by sharks.”

However, Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries told the Herald there had “been no formal direction in this space and some people may just have a personal preference for the language they use.”

But the suggested changes in wording came under some mockery online, with many users picking up on wording from the Queensland government’s SharkSmart website, which offers guidelines on minimizing a “negative encounter with a shark.”

The surfer lost her arm in a negative shark-related encounter,” one user wrote.

-Updated 3:26 p.m.

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