Perhaps in some attempt at synergy, our local movie theater is showing Speilberg's Jaws. As I drive past the marquee, I can't help thinking that our perception of sharks hasn't come very far since 1975. Sharks themselves have fared even worse, decimated worldwide by overfishing and sharkfinning boats.
To be fair to the folks at Discovery, their website for Shark Week 2010 has a lot of good information about sharks, and they've partnered with Oceana and the Ocean Conservancy. There is information about the ten most endangered sharks ("see them before it's too late!") and the 25-75 million sharks killed each year to satisfy the demand for shark-fin soup. But the actual on-air line up for Shark Week is all shark-attacks, all the time. Jaws, jaws, and more jaws.
We're in the process of exterminating sharks at a faster rate than we are finding out the most basic facts of their biology. It's hard to mobilize people to take the kind of action that's necessary to save sharks if all they see about them is a 35-year-old Jaws stereotype. So is Discovery's shark conservation message just going through the motions? In my humble opinion, they won't change hearts and minds about the plight of sharks until their programming presents another side of sharks than as perfect, mindless killing machines.
Knowing that sharks are in far more peril from humans than humans are from sharks, it's hard for me not to want to give Shark Week a complete overhaul. Here, then, is my version of Shark Week.
Sunday: Sharkabet with Ray Troll. Game show a la Jeopardy! hosted by the author of Sharkabet.
Troll's picture book Sharkabet was where my family learned about such wonderful animals as wobbegongs and goblin sharks. I think Troll would be the perfect ambassador for shark diversity.
Monday: Diving with Sharks. Hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, and silky sharks off Cocos Islands, Costa Rica, stingrays off the Canary Islands with the dive experts from Elasmodiver.com. It's hard to generalize about any large community on the internet, but folks at Elasmodiver appear dedicated to shark education and conservation.This would be a Travel-channel type show of shark diving sites around the world.
|Photo copyright Tom Burns. All rights reserved. Elasmodiver.com.|
Tuesday: The Secret Lives of Sharks. My reality show would follow scientists as they use satellite tagging to solve the mysteries of white sharks and other pelagic top predators.
Above, footage from Stanford University of the National Park Service's Scot Anderson discussing data from tagged sharks.
Wednesday: SharkCam. This show would feature footage from "crittercams"--also known as animal-borne imaging systems--attached to a variety of sharks, from a basking shark to rare and mysterious six-gill shark. Sharks occur in a variety of habitats from tropical reefs to the ocean's dark, cold abyss. The shark-mounted cameras of SharkCam will allow viewers to follow sharks wherever they live.
|Attaching a "crittercam" to a whale shark.|
Photo by Peter Nicholas.
Thursday: Doc Gruber's SharkLab. Profiling the work of Dr. Sam Gruber and colleagues on lemon sharks at Bimini Biological Field Station.
Friday: Sharkspiration. The science of biomimicry is bringing sharks' best evolutionary innovations to a product near you. Sharkskin is inspiring a new kind of medical film that inhibits the growth of bacteria. Overreliance on antibiotics is fueling the rise of so-called superbugs, but it may be that a super marterial--sharkskin--will be able to take these bugs on.
|Photo; Sharklet Technologies.|