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

Photo credit: Georgienne Bradley

81 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

ty

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William C
William C1 years ago

Thank you.

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W. C
W. C1 years ago

Thanks for caring.

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Caroline d.
Caroline d3 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing this very interesting article.
Be all blessed as all your loved ones.

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Georgienne Bradley

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 SeaSave.org

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Jude Hand
Judith Hand6 years ago

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

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Annie S.
Annie Sousa7 years ago

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.

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Mem H.
Mem T7 years ago

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?

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