Should Shark Week Focus on Conservation?

First aired on July 27, 1987, Shark Week has become an annual event. It is now broadcast in over 72 countries and last year over 30 million viewers tuned in worldwide. This is a fantastic forum to discuss the current plight of sharks, to discuss the 100,000,000 being killed each year, and to explain the latest findings from scientists and conservation groups.But, with a line-up such as “Great White Invasion,” “Jaws Comes Home,” “Rogue Sharks,” “Top Five Eaten Alive” and “10 Deadliest Sharks,” I am not sure viewers receive a balanced understanding of shark behavior and their complex niche.Peter Benchley’s widely-read book turned blockbuster, “Jaws,” certainly entrenched terror into people. This widespread, inaccurate and sensationalized bad public relation story was the reason behind many shark hunts and many senseless deaths. Today I still meet people who refuse to go into the ocean due to a phobia instigated by “Jaws.” Is Discovery Channel’s Shark Week merely taking this scenario to the next level, instilling fear into millions around the world? Will people be inclined to protect sharks if they believe they are merely patrolling, killing machines?Making this an even more interesting debate, most people will never have a first-hand shark experience. Very few people have SCUBA certification, the access and the inclination that would lead them into the water to observe sharks on their own. They rely upon scientists and filmmakers to bring stories back to them.The alternative viewpoint is interesting and strong. Why doesn’t Discovery Channel have a Butterfly Week? Clearly, this is because sharks have the capacity for drama and mystery that will keep an audience riveted for an entire week. Discovery Channel is a for-profit business. They try to attract as many people as they can to their line-up. They have a proven formula: “jaws and claws” sells.How should Discovery Channel handle future Shark Weeks? Do they have an obligation to use some of the Shark Week exposure and momentum to educate their international audience about the exponentially growing threats? Should they dedicate time slots for public service announcements that discuss the perils of shark finning and shark fin soup?Discovery Channel is not under any obligation to produce educational programming. They are accountable only to their shareholders. However, if they do not start using their media to shift international perspective, if they do not allocate at least a portion of their resources toward supporting governments protecting sharks, if they and others in powerful positions do not wield their success to seek out and implement solutions that will protect sharks, Discovery Channel will lose their ability to cash in on their success because Shark Week will need to be moved to the History Channel.please sign a petition urging the California Senate to pass AB 376 which will help stop shark finning.

13 Responses

  1. This year I thought would be the first that I actually watched some of "Shark Week." I avoided it in the past due to the sensationalism, and did away with TV altogether the last two years. I had heard there would be a much greater emphasis on education about shark depletion and conservation... but I've always had something better to do at night than going to our HOA common room to watch the show. I hope that it has listened to those of us who want the REAL story about sharks presented to the public rather than the hyper-sensationalized nonsense.<br /> <br /> I've dived in waters with great whites present for over 40 years now. Although I did have one swim by me a few years ago, all my appendages are still intact. I just wish the local shark population was. Back when I started diving SoCal in the 60s, blues and makos were very common sightings... now they are so rare, the boats rarely offer "shark dives" any more.
  2. Duplicate post due to SB database error
  3. At the end of the day, its their show. What business is it of our to tell them to change the way they air it? It causes phobia? So do airplanes and snakes but we didn't throw a fit about "Snakes on a Plane". Have we as a society really become so self centered that everything that anyone else does has direct implications of how we live our personal life? In fact I do find educational items in Shark Week, I do find some hilarity and entertainment value there as well. I don't however feel as though Discovery (or any other entity) owes me anything. Obviously they are aiming their show at the masses so they can make money, obviously since the show has been on since 1987 they know how to accomplish that. No, I feel like when people rant (maybe too strong of a word in this case) on article/posts like that for support it is the same as Trolling, if that is not the case, then that's ok its their opinion. I do not see the difference in one person saying we have to educate and another saying we have to entertain. Its the same coin with two sides. At the end of the day, its their show. Obviously this post has to do with a lot more than just this one instance of the self righteousness that is humanity in general and I do not want to come across as attacking the original article, BUT this is where I chose to publish my opinion, and it is just that, an opinion. Btw, I am completely outraged about shark finning, lack of conservation, and education, and I am definitely for any legislation that would help prevent it, point is we have no right to make someone else do it for us. Because as the article said, they are for profit and have no obligation to do so....welcome to the USA and the choices of being an adult. Oh and one other thing in case someone asks, no, I have never swam with any sharks but I certainly hope to soon.
  4. oh, just so there was no confusion, not a single bit of that was aimed at you DrBill. I just happened to post after you. :)
  5. I wish they would show the movie "Sharkwater" by Rob Stewart. It is a very educational documentary. I know it as been a few years since it was released, but I don't think I have seen it shown on cable television.
  6. I too would love to see <u>Sharkwater</u> on shark week as well as <u>This is your Ocean: Sharks</u>. I used to love Shark Week. The thrill of the unknown that just might get you. It was better than any scary movie because, as far as I was concerned it was real and I got to cheat death with every visit to the beach. Once I became a diver, I realized how docile sharks can be. Can they still eat you? Yeah, sure, but with the proper care and precaution, it can be much less likely. Heck, if I wanted...I could eat you, smelling and dressing like a cheeseburger would not help your case. :D
  7. Here is a link every member of the Scubaboard community should watch... <a href="http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2011/08/shark-week-emma-abused.html">The Best Shark Dive in the World!: Shark Week - Emma abused?</a> This shows some a*sH*(les who the Discovery network is clearly happy to work with, causing massive abuse to the shark "Emma" now popularized in Jim Abernethy's film this "This is your Ocean:Sharks." <a href="http://www.thisisyourocean.com/thefilm.html">This is Your Ocean: Sharks - The Film</a> You can see Emma in the trailor in Jimmy's film, acting like a beloved pet....the shark clearly likes Jimmy, and their is no possible way to fictionalize this with film....you can see this, right from the trailer ( occurs about 3/4ths of the way through the trailer).<br /> <br /> The Discovery network has enabled guys who are essentially eco-criminals, in thier begavior to marine life, to make money from bad behaviors, and to perpetuate a defective understanding of sharks, one which will not help in defeating the destruction of the marine ecosystem, from the top, down. <br /> <br /> I think a massive Facebook campaign should be kicked off, where we try to get everyone we know to BOYCOTT any programming on the Discovery Network, until they stop enabling the slime of the world.
  8. <blockquote><strong>Chris Horn;5999794 wrote:</strong> At the end of the day, its their show. What business is it of our to tell them to change the way they air it? It causes phobia? So do airplanes and snakes but we didn't throw a fit about "Snakes on a Plane". Have we as a society really become so self centered that everything that anyone else does has direct implications of how we live our personal life? In fact I do find educational items in Shark Week, I do find some hilarity and entertainment value there as well. I don't however feel as though Discovery (or any other entity) owes me anything. Obviously they are aiming their show at the masses so they can make money, obviously since the show has been on since 1987 they know how to accomplish that. No, I feel like when people rant (maybe too strong of a word in this case) on article/posts like that for support it is the same as Trolling, if that is not the case, then that's ok its their opinion. I do not see the difference in one person saying we have to educate and another saying we have to entertain. Its the same coin with two sides. At the end of the day, its their show. Obviously this post has to do with a lot more than just this one instance of the self righteousness that is humanity in general and I do not want to come across as attacking the original article, BUT this is where I chose to publish my opinion, and it is just that, an opinion. Btw, I am completely outraged about shark finning, lack of conservation, and education, and I am definitely for any legislation that would help prevent it, point is we have no right to make someone else do it for us. Because as the article said, they are for profit and have no obligation to do so....welcome to the USA and the choices of being an adult. Oh and one other thing in case someone asks, no, I have never swam with any sharks but I certainly hope to soon.</blockquote> <br /> Actually Chris, it is a lot more than this. <br /> With over 90 percent of the sharks in the ocean already slaughtered for fins, the world is now facing a collapse of the trophic systems below these apex predators, now no longer there to act as "sherriffs" on the reefs, to control any imbalances where one species overpopulates, and begins causing massive damage.....You can look at Lionfish, as an invasion that would never have happened with a healthy, natural shark population, or..... You could look at the algae all over the corals throughout the world, do to the bottom level herbivores being eaten by low level predators, and no longer controlled because of removal of many levels of predators above them..... most significant being the sharks.<br /> If you want to learn about the best new understading of the impending collapse of the marine ecosystem, download " The Trophic downgrading of Planet Earth" by James A Estes et al. Here is an abstract--but you should get the full article: <a href="http://coralmagazine-us.com/content/trophic-downgrading-planet-earth">Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth | Coral Magazine</a> <br /> <br /> The shark in Jim Abernethy's film, This is your Ocean... "Emma", was depicted as an intelligent creature that empathized with some people, and had made friends with Jimmy....If you watch the film, or were to go on one of his dives with emma, there is no way this can be disputed. When people understand the reality of what these animals are, and the cruelty taking place, it can be compared to a scumbag beating a dog to death for amusement, or lighting cats on fire. This is essentially what the Discovery TV Network, is paying for right now....It is sick, and only a boycott of Discovery TV, which they become seriously aware of, will have any effect on this....
  9. All I can say is that I started watching Shark Week in the late 80s when it first started and was fascinated with the shows. Lately though I have grown less interested in not only Shark Week but discovery channel and national geographic. To me it seams that the quality of the educational programing has decreased in order to create drama to appeal to a wider audience. It is for this reason I have not watched Shark week for three years now because the thought of animal exploitation comes to mind and how can you preach conservation in the middle of a drama circus? Discovery Channel shares the same interest in sharks as shark feeding tour operators do, there is a dollar to be made but since you can no longer just exploit an animal you have to spin it off as some sort of conservation effort or education.
  10. I have tried to market one of my series ("Munching & Mating in the <em>Macrocystis</em>") to a few cable outlets and have been told it was "too educational" for their audiences. Comments like this absolutely astound me... and make me shake my head at what American "culture" has become. I gave up watching TV nearly two years ago... too few things I cared to watch. I just wonder if "educational" programming is desired in other countries where the populace is more interested in learning something than being scared or "entertained."
  11. I waTch Shark week with my 2.5 year old. He loves fish, sharks and whales. As a matter a fact he has a stuffed shark that he sleeps with. I figure if we don't watch the "sharks eating people" episodes alot of the other programs really show these animals doing amazing things. He loves watching Great Whites breaching. Criticize all you want but if keeps his interest and inspires him I have to be happy about it. He even grabs as many books about sharks as he can when we go to the book store. Beats all Ive ever seen
  12. <blockquote><strong>drbill;5998317 wrote:</strong> This year I thought would be the first that I actually watched some of "Shark Week." I avoided it in the past due to the sensationalism, and did away with TV altogether the last two years. I had heard there would be a much greater emphasis on education about shark depletion and conservation... but I've always had something better to do at night than going to our HOA common room to watch the show. I hope that it has listened to those of us who want the REAL story about sharks presented to the public rather than the hyper-sensationalized nonsense.<br /> <br /> I've dived in waters with great whites present for over 40 years now. Although I did have one swim by me a few years ago, all my appendages are still intact. I just wish the local shark population was. Back when I started diving SoCal in the 60s, blues and makos were very common sightings... now they are so rare, the boats rarely offer "shark dives" any more.</blockquote> <br /> Dr. Bill,<br /> Did you see the Blues and Makos in the waters surrounding Catalina? How deep was the water? In the 60s would it have been common to see a Blue or a Mako at Ship Rock or at Casino Point? I think of them as being deep water sharks.
  13. In Talking with Jim Abernethy last week, he mentioned something pretty interesting about white sharks( if the Abernethy name is not familiar, he is one of the world's top Shark videographers and experts on their behavior...see <a href="http://www.thisisyourocean.com">www.thisisyourocean.com</a> ) ... Jim says that when he has done free swimming with great white sharks, they are so timid around scuba divers, that it is very hard to get good footage....if you get in a cage, the whites feel more protected, and will come in closer....As Ambush Predators, they are apparently not big on confrontations, even with people :-)

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