Ladies and gentlemen, good citizens everywhere, please listen to reason: The shark has been framed.

A new study said there's no basis for believing that sharks have a taste for human flesh. Human swimmers, often dressed in black wet suits and looking like seals, are mistaken for sharks' usual prey. The study offers a solution: Stop using "attack" as a term for every encounter. Stop describing animals that rarely kill humans as "man-eaters."

"Shark sightings" should be called just that, the study argues. A brush, bump, surfboard bite or close call is a "shark encounter." A bite that results in injury should be identified as a "shark bite," and a bite that leads to death should be called a "fatal shark bite."

Christopher Neff, lead author and a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney in Australia, acknowledged that it's unlikely that people will stop describing encounters as attacks, but he said people should know that "not all shark attacks are created equal." There are on average about 100 shark encounters in the world annually, and fewer than 10 are fatal, said Robert Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., and a co-author of the study published online in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.


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