Decolonising the waters : interspecies encounters between sharks and humans
Hammerton, Z & Ford, A 2018, 'Decolonising the waters : interspecies encounters between sharks and humans', Animal Studies Journal, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 270-303.
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Often portrayed as ‘man–eaters’, sharks are one of the most maligned apex species on earth. Media representation has fuelled public imagination, perpetuating fear and negative stereotypes of sharks and hysteria around human-shark interactions; whilst government initiatives such as beach netting and drum-lines target sharks for elimination. This interdisciplinary article, written from the points of view of environmental science and cultural studies, proposes humans as simply another species when entering the ocean, presenting a decolonising shift in paradigm that supports an interspecies ethics of engagement in understanding shark-human interactions. The shifting environmental, political, social and cultural realities of shark-human interactions are examined from the point of view of an endangered species that is hunted by humans in the pursuit of making beaches ‘safe’ for human leisure activities. The human ‘right to leisure’ enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) raises philosophical and ethical implications in respect of human rights taking precedence over a species’ right to live in its environment. The article builds upon philosophical debates in environmental ethics, offering a point of cultural recognition of the profound imbalance that is being imposed upon Nature. The article proposes a shift in approaches to human attitudes and uses of the ocean, decentralizing the anthropocentric, reinstating the ecological kinship of species.