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Should Shark Week Focus on Conservation?

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.

If you would like to do something for sharks today, please sign a petition urging the California Senate to pass AB 376 which will help stop shark finning.

Sea Save Foundation AB 376 Petition Bottom Button

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Photo credit: Georgienne Bradley

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5:24PM PDT on Aug 4, 2013

Thanks to everyone who signed this petition. The petition is now closed. The result of this campaign was a success. AB376, the anti shark fin bill was successfully passed in California. This petition was used to convince state leadership that the bill was supported by California residents. Thanks for working with us to win this important battle. For more information about current and upcoming opportunities to raise awareness about sharks, please join our newsletter at

7:54PM PST on Feb 16, 2013

Thanks. Unfortumately, I couldn't get the petition to work (sorry).

7:08AM PST on Feb 3, 2012

Absolutely. I currently dont watch shark week because its a weeklong sensationalized bloody fear fest. It does nothing but vilify these amazing animals. They do the same thing with wolves. All the man on the street thinks of when you mention sharks or wolves, is maneating terror and nothing could further from the truth. The average person who watch these shows, dont know how vital these animals are for their respective eco systems. Instead of revelling in the incredibly rare occurrence of a human death due to sharks they should show the horrendous practice of finning sharks and maybe, just maybe, there may be a sympathy wave for this incredible, vital creature.

3:46PM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

excellent points! we should definitely have a balance and educate people on the beauty of sharks. there definitely should be something on to educate those who have shark fin soup! do they really know where and how those fins came to be in their soup? ie. shark is most often still alive when it is finned! then it's tossed back into the water. unable to swim, the shark slowly sinks towards the bottom & dies! more than 100 out of 400 shark species are being commercially exploited. many of these shark species are so overexploited that even their long-term survival can no longer be guaranteed. how saddening is that?

is there a petition to ask DC to change their shark week focus?

10:47AM PDT on Aug 15, 2011

All animals seemed to be favored by people to the point of the global mass extinction of the only creatures on the animal planet without rights. Tanked, Harpooned or fried, sea life is going extinct world wide. How can we draw a line in the sand and only care about life on one side and not the other?

With TV shows like “Swords” and “Tanked” that glorify the killing of the worlds sea life they nullify the couple of the whales they saved on “Whale Wars”. There are over one hundred million home aquariums in the world, Five million importers, exporters, a million Pet Stores and 10’s of thousands of Aquariums, Zoos and research facilities responsible for killing over one hundred million sea creatures EVERY DAY!

Welcome to earth, may we take your order? All we have left are animals on our planet. We have “discovered” we can do whatever we want to the creatures of the sea because of our line in the sand. But like any line in the sand is soon washed away in the tide.

Boycott Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and Gieco for glorifying the global generational genocide on Animal planet earth!

5:36PM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

100,000,000 a year? What about 100,000,000 A DAY! We should be boycotting the Discovery channel and Animal Planet for glorifying the killing of sealife. Your soup is a very small problem in a very big ocean. The aquarium industry is the real killer. Besides why should we listen to someone who steals another's name. I am the president of Sea Save. For the last eight years! Use your own name...Imaging foundation or I will sue you!

2:10PM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

Shark kiiling needs to be stopped.What is going to happen if all the predators are killed?

3:08AM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

thanks for sharing this article :)

5:09PM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

Marc r., aside from the whole bait, catch and kill whatever you pull from their natural habitat, do you even know what your talking about?
I mean seriously, protein? I'm vegan, have been for a couple years now, and I get PLENTY of protein without going near dead animals, let alone sharks...and no, before you ask, its not all from tofu, and yes, it is super-sustainable. Fishing isn't. These my friend, are the facts of life :)

11:45AM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

YES - Shark Week SHOULD focus on conservation!!!

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