Updated: Aug 12, 2022
This week is one for all the sharks and the people that choose to celebrate them. However, there are some things about this week that may not actually be all that good for the sharks.
Growing up I was Animal Planet and Discovery Channel obsessed! Crocodile Hunter, Blue Planet, I Shouldn’t Be Alive, Meerkat Manor, Deadliest Catch, MythBusters, and so many more were daily go-to’s after school. You could definitely say I was a nerd from the start, choosing to watch wildlife docs and shows over Disney channel as a kid. There was nothing I looked forward to more than Shark Week. My best friend and I used to go over to each others houses for sleepovers and binge-watch all of the programs, staying up later than normal to watch Shark After Dark. We made an entire event out of it.
I grew up in Florida where my home break was labeled as the “shark bite capital of the world” by Shark Week. Seeing sharks at the beach or at least knowing they were around was no new concept to me. People in FL either knew the sharks were there and paid it no attention, or wouldn’t step foot in the water at all. I’m not sure there was really any in-between.
As a Shark Week fanatic I can admit I loved the attack reenactments and other sensationalized media as a kid. However, as I started to get older I started to enjoy Shark Week less and less. Every year the same message about “killer sharks” was being shown.
After having the experiences I’ve had in-water with sharks I have found Shark Week to be a more and more frustrating program.
Sharks are 100% capable apex predators but they aren’t monsters. While Shark Week attempts to sprinkle in educational content, it is often drowned out by fear-based media for entertainment value. Personally, I think seeing people peacefully coexisting with sharks by is just as impressive and entertaining, if not more, than watching another cheesy reenactment that paints sharks as monsters lurking in the deep.
Luckily, with the rise of social media, people are being exposed to the positive side of sharks more than ever before. However, there are unfortunately still some viewers that take everything stated on Shark Week at face value. It can be hard to separate scary narration from peaceful sharks if all you’ve ever seen about them is that they bite people and attack objects put in the water.
I am extremely lucky to be in the unique situation where I have interacted with sharks in the wild. I also understand that most people may never have that experience. However, I think there is something to be said about the fact that after thousands of dives I still have all my fingers and toes. I still watch Shark Week and other similar programs. I think that they can be extremely entertaining, and in most cases laughable, but I am able to take the fear-based programming for what it is, entertainment, not reality or fact.
Shark Week definitely can be a positive thing. It brings attention to some of the most capable, amazing, and important animals in our oceans. It helps inspire many future marine biologists and shark scientists and it celebrates my favorite marine life. However, it can also persuade people into fearing sharks more than loving them. I hope in the future we can see a better mix of programs. Hopefully with more positive and conservation related messages when it comes to shark populations around the world.
Celebrate Shark Week every week! Continue to speak up for the protection and respect of what I consider the planet’s greatest apex predator.