Karl accused of ‘ridiculous fear mongering’
Karl Stefanovic's latest 60 Minutes special has been marred by controversy after commentators accused the program of "contributing to the fear" surrounding sharks.
In Sunday night's episode, the veteran television personality donned a wetsuit to swim with sharks for a piece on the misunderstood species - and the paranoia surrounding them.
"Attacks are incredibly rare yet most of us are petrified of them. Why? Maybe it's because when they do strike it's violent, messy … and guaranteed to create a headline," Stefanovic explained in the show's introduction.
During the program, Stefanovic also spoke with 32-year-old marine biologist Ocean Ramsey, who is doing her bit to reverse the bad press facing sharks.
"It's unfortunate … There's not a lot of sympathy," Ms Ramsey said.
"But the thing is, yes, they are predators, and yes, they are demonised for that.
"But, you need predators for healthy marine ecosystems. You need a boss to regulate things. You need governments to keep organisation. It's a natural law."
But while the 60 Minutes special was sympathetic to the plight of sharks and attempted to dispel the "irrational fear" many of us feel towards them, much of the controversy centred around a series of tweets the program published beforehand to promote the segment.
In one tweet published on October 16, 60 Minutes posted: "The ultimate summer debate: Should sharks be protected or culled? SUNDAY on #60Mins: The brave shark attack victim and inspiring ocean crusader who say we need a radical rethink about how we live with the man-eaters."
That prompted a number of Twitter users to blast the program for seeming to encourage hysteria.
Completely agree.— SunStruck (@struck_sun) October 16, 2019
Why do you morons continue with this ridiculous fear mongering? Sharks must be protected and have no interest in attacking humans.
"Maybe you should also have a rethink about your language 60 Minutes instead of contributing to the fear narrative with words like 'man-eater'. Shame on the person who posted this," one Twitter user wrote.
"Why do you morons continue with this ridiculous fear mongering? Sharks must be protected and have no interest in attacking humans," another posted.
Maybe you should also have a rethink about your language 60 Minutes instead of contributing to the fear narrative with words like "maneater". Shame on the person who posted this. @nosharkcull1 @hsiaustralia— 💧🌱Waves_Words (@waves_words) October 16, 2019
The tweet was re-posted four days later, sparking a fresh round of criticism.
Others criticised the show for bringing up the cull argument in the first place, with one Twitter user writing: "I can't believe this is still being debated … Hey I might go to all the people in my street and threaten to cull them so I can have their houses! See how that goes."
"Lions, hippos, rhinos will also kill humans if you walk into their territory. We might as well kill them too," another sarcastically argued.
A poll on the 60 Minutes Facebook page asking whether sharks should be protected or culled showed 86 per cent supported the animals' protection.
"I don't see how this is even a poll. Of course they should be protected," a Facebook user wrote, with the overwhelming majority agreeing.
And after the segment aired, many also shared a joke at the embattled TV personality's expense.
Apparently #60minutes are showing proof tonight that even Great White sharks find Karl Stefanovic unpalatable.— Sundo (@sirisgonerogue) October 20, 2019
During the program, Stefanovic also spoke with Ron Brennan, a second-generation professional fisherman from north Queensland who claims there are more sharks in the water than ever before - and that they're affecting his livelihood.
"Yeah, they're everywhere. Wherever I go, I end up running into them, and gear damaged by them, and fish chewed up by them. Yeah. It's a big pain in the a*** to me," he told the program, adding that people who wanted to protect sharks "have no idea".
However, according to the program, conservationists like Ocean Ramsey and her husband Juan are winning over more and more people to their cause - including those you'd least expect, such as Glenn Dickson.
Two years ago, the young man was spearfishing with mates off the far north Queensland coast when he was attacked by a three and half metre bull shark, which lead to his right leg being amputated.
During the segment, Mr Dickson returned to the water for the first time, "fearlessly" swimming alongside Stefanovic - and at one point, a reef shark.
But despite his traumatic experience, Mr Dickson said he supported of the protection of the majestic animals.
"There might be folks who will say, well listen, if he didn't want to get attacked by a shark, you shouldn't be spearfishing," Stefanovic said at the end of the program.
Mr Dickson had a simple - but surprising - response.
"Yeah, they're right," he said.
They don't come up on our shores, maybe we shouldn't go into thier waters...— Michael (@hefty_merv) October 17, 2019