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Australian officials to prefer shark 'bites' descriptions over 'attacks'

A man who suffered severe arm injuries from a shark years ago said authorities should not remove "attack" entirely, however, according to a report.

QUEENSLAND, Australia — What do lightning, train crashes and fireworks all have in common? The odds of those things killing you are way higher than a shark, according to the Florida Museum.

But it's the big ocean predators that many people fear most.

It's essentially this line of thinking that prompted authorities in Australia to prefer calling encounters with sharks "bites" over "attacks," according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Researcher Christopher Pepin-Neff told the outlet that the phrase "'shark attack' is a lie," saying that more than a third of human interactions with sharks left no injuries. Others included minor bites from small sharks, such as when they were stepped on.

Neff said encounters once were called "shark accidents" until a prominent surgeon, Victor Coppleson, began calling them attacks in the 1930s.

Considering the language used to describe such interactions matters, said Leonardo Guida, a shark researcher at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, as not every incident described as an "attack" is simply that.

"...It helps dispel inherent assumptions that sharks are ravenous, mindless man-eating monsters," Guida told the Herald.

Those assumptions can hurt the species in the long run. According to BBC News, there has been a 71-percent reduction of the shark population in more than 50 years, mostly because of over-fishing.

Authorities still, however, should be careful about getting rid of the word "attack" when using to describe interactions, said Dave Pearson, a spokesman for the Bite Club, to the Herald. His group represents those who have suffered injuries from sharks.

"You can’t sanitize it too much," he told the outlet.

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