Last week, we learnt of a great tragedy. A man was attacked by a shark or sharks in shallow waters as he went about a training swim at Maori Bay on Auckland’s West Coast and sadly, he died at the scene. As the events unfolded, local surf life savers nearby went by boat to intervene and help but it was too late. They then focussed their efforts on retrieving the body by trying to get the shark to release it. Others came to help by boat and helicopter and shot the shark around 12 times in a bid to allow it to release the body, which it did. The shark naturally was injured and from what I have since read, it is believed it died too.
Indeed a great tragedy and lives are forever changed. This man was a husband, father, son, uncle, cousin, friend and colleague. So many people are affected by the sudden loss of human life and we naturally grieve with them on the loss and shock they feel. He was an innocent man, not out to cause harm, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I feel the sharks too were innocent as the oceans are their home; this is their waters and it is believed they were there feeding at the time. They too were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Within their family, they also suffered an unexpected loss. Is it possible to have compassion for both parties?
Indigenous cultures believe that all life is sacred and to be respected. They understand the interconnectedness in all things and as such are in-tune with the voice of nature in a way that many of us have forgotten. And most importantly, their beliefs ensure they live in peace and harmony with all life. I do feel that the events at Maori Bay are a double tragedy for the loss of human life and equally the loss of the shark’s life. It was so beautiful to see the local Maori Elders step-in to undertake a sacred ceremony to lift the tapu on the waters the next day and honour the lives lost.
Since then, there has an increase in the media coverage amplifying our fears about sharks and the safety of our waters and in some ways; I feel that the shark stereotype is portrayed in an unfair light. We seemingly happily kill these animals for things like ‘shark fin soup’ and yet shark attacks in NZ waters are rare. The ocean is their natural home and this, I feel we must respect.
Perhaps this is an opportunity to learn from our indigenous Maori people their ways and their beliefs that honour the waters and all life that dwell there and that we can come to appreciate the interconnectedness of all life and that we are all ONE.
As a race of people, ‘we often fear what we do not understand’. And so I share this quote:
“If you talk to the animals, they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them, you will not know them, And what you do not know, you will fear.
What one fears, one destroys”.
Chief Dan George
Is it possible to have compassion for both lives? And is it possible that we can learn something from this tragedy that honors and respects all life? Let’s seek to understand and not destroy what we fear.
Jo Hutchinson is Mentoring and Facilitating Change and Growth
Great Spirit NZ Ltd
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