SHARK attacks worldwide increased to nearly 80 last year, signaling an end to a recession that gripped the entire shark attack industry for nearly a decade.
2000 was Year
of the Sharks
To help us crunch the numbers in the brutal fish-eat-fish world of professional predators, we contacted Tiger Mako, chief spokes-shark for the Pacific Region.
Honolulu Lite: Tiger, looks like you guys had a busy 2000.
Tiger: You said a mouthful, my friend. First couple of quarters were disappointing. Had a lot of near misses in Australia that should have been points on the board. But the last quarter was terrific. Snagged a couple of windsurfers in California and a snorkler off Costa Rica.
HL: It seems like you're still mostly active on off-shore reefs and open seas.
Tiger: Yeah, we're strong there. Get people in water over their heads and we can dominate. Snapping at people along the beaches is dicey. One person sees a fin and it's like, "Shark! Shark! Look Out! Bla, blah, blah." Then you're thrashing around in the shallows while the meat scampers all over the place. You end up sinking your teeth into a plastic air mat. And trust me, you can't get THAT taste out of your mouth for days.
HL: Your numbers for attacks in harbors and bays went way up.
Tiger: That was sweet. We launched a youth program last year to get some of the youngsters to do a little bay work. It's scary stuff. No place to run, no place to hide kind of deal.
HL: And then there's another category that didn't show much improvement that is simply listed in the stats as "other."
Tiger: Those would be your hallways, elevators, the backs of taxi cabs, etc. Face it, those are tough gigs for cold-blooded vertebrate animals who generally live in water and breathe through gills.
HL: So, there is such a thing as Land Sharks?
Tiger: Rare. Real rare. Last known attack was by a shark named Wendell the Great White who tried to consume an old lady in the Bronx and ended up getting run over by a bus. We got a lot of bad PR on that one.
HL: Florida seems to be your strongest market.
Tiger: That's right. Florida's always been good to us. Lots of product in the water. Down around Miami the bathers aren't so spry. But, you know, pulling an 80-year-old dude off a kayak ain't exactly playing Carnage Hall. For real satisfaction, you have to go to Hawaii.
HL: What's so special about Hawaii?
Tiger: They've got a great offense there. Hell, they'll cut a shark's fin off and dump the poor bugger back in the water just so they can make soup. That's cold, my friend. And if you bite one lousy leg off a guy in Hawaii, they launch a whole fleet of fishermen armed with shotguns and stuff. Brutal. Why, I was just checking out this snorkler of Kauai one day when the jerk punched me on the nose. Can you believe it? No respect. So I had to eat him. I mean, he embarrassed me in front of my friends. And I wasn't even hungry.
HL: Seventy-nine attacks worldwide last year. Pretty impressive. Can you keep up that pace in 2001.
Tiger: If we stick to the fundamentals. Our foreign production could be better. We had zero attacks off China. What do they have, 200 billion people there? That should be a growth market for us. But you know how it is, ya eat one guy from Hong Kong and you're hungry again an hour later.
Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
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