Just in time for Discovery Channel”s Shark Week, July 27 to Aug. 2, today we released a report revealing that as shark populations decline, the oceans suffer unpredictable and devastating consequences. The week of popular shark programming is a blessing and a curse for shark conservation — our maligned friends get their annual moment in the spotlight, and there are undoubtedly many people working hard to fit the conservation message into some of the shows.
But then there’s always material that leaves the viewer thinking twice about that beach swim.
It’s understandable, in a way — sharks are toothy beasts. It’s hard to resist getting drawn in by image after image of fearsome, tail-flicking predators. No matter how often it’s repeated that attacks are incredibly rare, and that these apex predators are in a lot of trouble — from human activities, no less — the staying power of Jaws’ imagery and soundtrack can’t be underestimated.
We’re a curious bunch, we humans. We kill more than 100 million sharks worldwide every year — either for their fins and meat, or incidentally, as bycatch — and yet we have an entire week of TV devoted to them. We’re obsessed, fixated, unsure how to respond. The truth, of course, is that we are the real predator in this relationship, not the sharks.
I don’t know if I’ll catch any of the shows, but if so, I’ll try to make it this one, MYSTERIES OF THE SHARK COAST, which premieres Thursday, July 31, at 9 p.m. A team of scientists and explorers are “undertaking the largest shark tagging expedition in Australian history. Their mission: to discover the cause of the mysterious decline in shark populations here, and find out if we can help the situation.”
If we could take a poll of sharks, what would they say about Shark Week?