The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - November 29

A leading Italian expert has dismissed claims by an Australian marine biologist that sharks are a growing threat to humans. Alberto Lucca Recchi, a photographer and writer who has made the study of sharks his life's passion, said suggestions that the predators had developed a taste for human flesh were just not true.

"There are cases of attacks on humans but the shark does not eat the person," he said. "When they taste us, they actually spit us out" Recchi's remarks came in response to claims by Scoresby Shepherd, who pointed to a worrying increase in shark attacks on humans over recent years. According to Shepherd, there was an average shark attack once every 30 years at the start of the 20th century. Now, he says, there is one every year. "There are a growing number of people in the sea and a falling number of fish - particularly tuna, which is the natural prey of sharks," the Australian expert explained. "It's therefore only to be expected that the sharks will try a new diet sooner or later.

"A change of prey is a common biological phenomenon constantly seen in sharks, as they eat what they find." Recchi admitted that sharks were "opportunistic eaters." But he stressed that, "it takes thousands and thousands of years for sharks to change their habits.When they have a choice, they choose fish and their favourite food is tuna. When there is no fish, they will attack marine mammals instead." He suggested that the growing number of attacks was partly prompted by the larger number of bathers. If there were attacks on swimmers, he said, it was only because the sharks mistook them for marine mammals, and not because they were deliberately after human flesh.