We Know the Catfish but Know We the Dogfish?

When we were children, we all had irrational fears. I’m just going to get kind of personal here when I say that mine was water. I feared bodies of water. Everything from the widest ocean to the smallest bathtub caused me great anxiety. Why? Let me tell you a story.

I was about 3 years old and learning like crazy. As a child, everything seemed so bright. On one particular evening, though, at least my mother realized something. As she was bathing me, she piped up and said “I saw a shark!” As fast as lightning and with agility someone that age shouldn’t have, I leapt out of the tub and took a run for it.

So, it wasn’t water necessarily that I feared, only what may be lurking underneath of it.

In a study that was done in Washington D.C. in July 2016, survey said that about half of Americans shared this galeophobia, this irrational fear of sharks. But the question is, if it weren’t for aquariums and for movies, would this fear exist? My easy answer is “No!” but let us explore this.

Back in 1975, Hollywood was taken by storm by the drama-thriller Jaws about a giant, antagonistic shark with a thirst for human blood. This Steven Spielberg classic single handedly changed the way that Americans look at water. He single handedly changed the way I look at water, forever.

On November 12 of this year, Josh Robb and his father in law were crabbing on the Columbia River near Warrenton. They noticed some commotion in the water and next thing they know, there was a seal floating in a dark pool of its own blood.

Robb got out his phone and began recording the video of the struggle. At first, he thought it may have been another seal. When he realized that it was a shark, he started to freak out, understandably. He thought it may have been a great white, because Robb said afterward that “When the shark came up, we realized it was almost as big as our 18-foot duck boat and then it took the seal down and we got out of there.”


courtesy of Josh Robb on king5.com

We have sharks in the Columbia River. Sharks in the Colombia River! The irrational fear of a good half of America is being realized not off of the coast, but on one of the states’s busiest and most commonly used rivers.

Why might these sharks be moving inland? Global warming. This causes the water to get warmer, therefore killing off some of the sharks’ food. When this happens, the shark has to move. And when sharks move, we become their neighbors.

I am grateful that I live within the city and live closer to the biohazard that is the Willamette River than I do to the Columbia.

Alison Kock in a Smithsonian article said “white sharks are intelligent, highly inquisitive creatures.” People fear sharks thinking that they are murderous man eaters. But scientists tell us that they are more like dogs than anything else. They are curious and intelligent. Why, then have they had a bit of a history for biting into other animals? Because, like dogs when they find something they’re unsure about, they smell it and taste it. Sharks don’t have tongues, they do have “tastebuds” though, basically lining their mouths. So, when a shark bites something, they’re really just tasting it.

So, these large beasts of the deep aren’t heartless, man killing machines, they are in reality Fantastic Beasts of a strange variety, even though I find it hard to trust a carnivore that outweighs me by a few hundred pounds.

-Loren Riddle WR 121-19


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