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VOICE ONE: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty VOICE TWO: And I'm Faith Lapidus. This week, we will tell about sharks -- a fish with a public relations problem. VOICE ONE: A picture in the newspaper shows a person standing next to a huge shark. The body of the shark is hanging with its head down. A scale is measuring its weight. The lines below the picture say the shark was a very big one. Or perhaps it was one of the biggest ever caught in the area. The person who brought in the fish looks extremely pleased. That person won a battle with what has been called one of nature's fiercest creatures. VOICE TWO: Some people, however, do not approve of catching sharks. They do not think all sharks are terrifying enemies. They know that studies show lightning and snakebites threaten people more than shark attacks. Activists for sharks note that the fish are valuable in the ocean. Sharks eat injured and diseased fish. Their hunting means that other fish do not become too great in number. This protects other creatures and plants in the ocean. VOICE ONE: Environmental activists worry that some kinds of fish are in danger of dying out. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that fishing operations kill more than one hundred million sharks every year. Sharks are harvested for meat and cartilage, liver oil and, especially, for their fins. Many of the animals die when people harvesting other kinds of fish pull in sharks by accident. George Burgess leads the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History of the University of Florida. He says shark attacks increased during the past century for a good reason. Hundreds of millions of people now use the world's oceans, more than in the past. Professor Burgess says the first ten years of the twenty-first century are expected to register the most attacks of any ten-year period. VOICE TWO: Yet the International Shark Attack File reports that the number of shark attacks has, in fact, decreased in recent years. During this period, there was an average of sixty-three attacks worldwide each year. That compares with a high of seventy-nine in two thousand. The file gives some likely reasons for the decrease. One reason is that overfishing of sharks and related fish has reduced the size of some shark populations. Another is that more people are careful to stay away from waters where sharks swim. And the file says workers responsible for boating and beach safety may be doing a better job of warning people when sharks are seen. VOICE ONE: The International Shark Attack File describes shark attacks as either provoked or unprovoked. An unprovoked attack means the person is alive when bitten. It also means the person must not have interfered with the shark. Some divers interfere with sharks on purpose. They want to get the attention of sharks, perhaps to take pictures of them. The diver may put food in the water to get the animal to come close. Sharks do not normally want to be with people. But their excellent sense of smell leads them to food. Some experienced divers say they may not face danger when near a shark. But they say the next person who comes near the shark may be in trouble. The animal's experience with being fed may make it connect food with people. Source: Voice of America