Shark Week is in its 29th year and has become the Super Bowl of many shark enthusiasts. Over the years the programming has ranged from excellent -- for example, shows that focus on shark science, to highly controversial – for example, the 2014 faux documentary suggesting that Megalodon isn’t an extinct species. (It is, extinct.)
This year’s schedule looks to have, potentially, a similar kind of range; from important and inspiring science to unnecessary attack reenactments, though thankfully no faux documentaries. It seems both Discovery and the general public agree that real sharks are fascinating enough.
To help viewers navigate this year’s programming from a conservation perspective, we’ll provide a daily breakdown of each night’s shows with additional information and links to provide a broader understanding about the sharks presented.
Shark Week tends to focus on the larger species of sharks such as the Mackerel and Ground Sharks yet the world of sharks includes approximately 440 species of sharks ranging in size from possibly the smallest shark, the Dwarf Lanternshark, to the largest fish the oceans, the massive Whale shark. For more information on shark biology, click here.
Sunday, June 26
8 pm EST – Tiger Beach
This show will focus on tiger sharks at the world-famous diving destination by the same name located in the Bahamas. The show is reported to follow a University of Miami research team as they seek to study the sharks’ reproduction. Here are some important things to know about Tiger Sharks:
~ The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species lists the Tiger Shark as Near Threatened based on a 2005 assessment.
~ Tiger shark populations face a variety of threats, worldwide. The IUCN Species Summary states that the threats include “…not only a large range of directed and bycatch fisheries, but also problems such as the ingestion of human garbage. The high value of some products (especially fins) from Tiger Sharks has resulted in increased fishing pressures on this species in recent years…There is anecdotal evidence that in areas where catches in commercial fisheries are high, abundance has been significantly reduced “
~ A 2014 WildAid Report revealed that Tiger Sharks are one of the 14 species of sharks most prevalent in the shark fin trade with regional population declines of 65 to 99%.
~ Since 2011, all commercial shark fishing has been banned in the Bahamas thus protecting Tiger Sharks and all sharks across 243,244 square miles of the country's waters.
9 pm EST – The Return of Monster Mako
This show is about filming large Mako sharks that are now rare, especially along the U.S. Atlantic coast. Of course, they are not ‘monsters’ – Shark Week tends to use this word frequently and inaccurately to describe sharks in general. Here are some important things to know about Mako Sharks:
~ There are two species of mako found in the waters of the Western Atlantic and they are often misidentified because they can appear very similar. They are the Shortfin and the Longfin Mako.
~ The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species lists both the Shortfin and Longfin Mako as Vulnerable with a decreasing population trend. The IUCN Species Summary states, “In the US and Canadian pelagic longline fisheries, Shortfin Mako is one of the most commonly caught sharks…[and] it is taken as a bycatch from tuna and swordfish longline fisheries worldwide, with carcasses and fins being retained.” Shorkfin mako is also one the fourteen most common species found in the shark fin trade with estimated regional declines from 40 to 99%.
10 pm EST – Isle of Jaws
This show is about filming an aggregation of all male Great White Sharks in a new location in South Australia. This show’s title along with a few others this season, refers to the iconic blockbuster film in using the word “jaws” which has become a synonym for Great White Sharks; but it is important to note that the creator of “Jaws”, Peter Benchley, came to love and respect the animals. In his own words, “…with knowledge accumulated over dozens of expeditions and from 100’s of divers and countless encounters with sharks of many kinds came the realization that I could never write ‘Jaws” today. I could never demonize an animal, especially not an animal that is older and much more successful in its habitat than man is, has been, or ever will be. An animal that is vitally necessary for the balance of nature in the sea.”
In 1975 “Jaws” author, Peter Benchley, discussed the ecological importance of White Sharks and how he could not, today, with our modern knowledge of sharks, write the same novel. (Still from Shark Savers’ and 333 Productions’ short film, Legacy ~ The Words of Peter Benchley)
~ The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species lists the Great White Sharks as Vulnerable. The IUCN Species Summary states, “…exploitation of Great White Sharks is primarily undertaken with the aim of trading its teeth and jaws as trophies or curios and its fins for the oriental fin trade. In South Africa offers of US$20,000-$50,000 have been made for great white shark jaws and US$600-$800 for individual teeth.”
~ Great White Sharks are protected in the waters of the USA, South Africa, Namibia, Israel, Malta, Malta and Australia. However, in Australia there have been repeated and recent calls for culls, and in South Africa, essentially ineffective protective beach nets have caused deaths of Great White Sharks and other marine species. The species is listed CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix II, which includes those “species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.”
Enjoy the first night of Shark Week 2016 and be sure to follow Shark Savers on Twitter @Sharksavers as we live-Tweet during the shows; we’ll be using and follow #SharkWeek and #SharkWeek2016.