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Biologists: Climate Change Making Sharks “Grumpier”

Natasha Biase

Biologists are warning that rising global temperatures as a result of climate change is reportedly causing sharks to become angrier, potentially increasing their risk towards humans.

On August 5, Copernicus, the European Union’s weather service, revealed that sea temperatures had reached an average of 20.96 celsius, a fractional increase over when it was last recorded in 2016.

But, according to the Telegraph, the temperature change may be resulting in predatory animals like sharks becoming more aggressive.

“Sharks getting grumpy wouldn’t surprise me at all,” said sea and oceanography expert Dr. Simon Boxall. “Fish are pretty jumpy about temperature. Certain marine animals have a very narrow tolerance for temperature changes.”

Professor Rowan Sutton, from the University of Reading and National Centre for Atmospheric Science, explained: “Whilst there are certainly short-term factors, the major long-term cause is without any doubt the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere caused by human activities, primarily burning fossil fuels.”

While Shark Attack File, the world’s only scientifically documented database of all known shark attacks, admits that environmental factors like hotter temperatures can influence a shark’s behavior, it also points out that the number of confirmed unprovoked shark attacks was lower in 2022 than the most recent five-year average.

“The 2022 worldwide total of 57 confirmed unprovoked cases is lower than the most recent five-year (2017-2021) average of 70 incidents annually.” 

Research blog Ocean Fauna also highlights that certain sharks prefer to live in warmer water because it helps regulate their body temperature, provides more nutrients and oxygen, supports healthy growth, makes it easier to find food, and increases alertness to prey.

“During colder months of the year, when water temperatures drop below 10°C (50°F), most shark activity decreases substantially as they become lethargic and less active due to their cold-blooded nature,” says former Ocean Fauna writer Imtiaz Mahi. “This means they may spend more time resting on the seafloor than actively searching for prey and expending energy.”

Continuing, he explains: “As water temperatures warm up again in summertime months, however, shark activity increases dramatically as they become more alert and active in response to rising temperatures and increased prey availability.”

The Telegraph‘s report on the emotional state of sharks sparked mixed reactions on X (formerly Twitter), most of which mocked the way in which the biologists’ claims were represented.

In a post calling attention to the article, bestselling author and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson joked: “Here come the angry sharks. Is there nothing climate change can’t do?”

Others, like political commentator Nick Dixon, accused the media of fear-mongering and pushing a sinister globalist agenda.

“People aren’t falling for Net Zero. Time to deploy the angry sharks,” he wrote.

While some have accused the media of using sharks to push an anti-energy agenda, American author Alex Epstein explained that “cold is a far bigger problem than heat,” continuing that “anti-fossil fuel policies will make us more endangered by both.”

In a report for EnergyNow.ca, Epstein says that before commenting on summer temperatures, climate experts must acknowledge several factors, including that cold-related deaths are higher than heat-related deaths, the earth is warming slowly, fossil fuels protect us from dangerous temperatures, and anti-fossil fuel policies pose a serious risk.

“Study after study has found that deaths from cold outnumber deaths from heat by 5-15 times,” he said. “On every continent cold is more dangerous than heat. Even in many countries, we think of as especially hot, such as India, cold-related deaths significantly exceed heat-related deaths.”

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Natasha Biase

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