The photograph shows a man in blue polo shirt and white cap petting a Great White Shark. Social media posts summarize the claim: “Arnold Pointer, a professional fisherman from south Australia set free from a certain death a big female White Shark that was caught in his fishing nets. Now the fisherman has a problem. He says: ‘It’s been 2 years and she doesn’t leave me alone. She follows me everywhere I go and her presence scares all the fishes.’” Pointer named his 17-foot shark friend Cindy.
The photograph is genuine and unaltered. It originates from a huge trawl of shark photographs made by marine biologists Michael Scholl and Thomas Peschak. None of their images, however, depicts a love-struck shark smitten with a benevolent fisherman.
The love story narrative hook originates as an April Fool’s Day fiction. It is published in April 2006 in the French magazine, Le Magazine des Voyages de Peche (Literal translation: The Magazine of Fishing Voyages). Then the love story hoax catches the public imagination. (This is hardly surprising. Love stories have oceanic appeal. After all, we build our lives around love stories we tell ourselves.) In English translation and accompanied by a rotating group of shark images, the tale receives millions of internet hits. “Once I stop the boat she comes to me, she turns on her back and lets me pet her belly and neck, she grunts, turns her eyes, and moves her fins up and down hitting the water happily.”