As summer is approaching us, viewers are gearing up for Discover channels famous T.V show “Shark Week”. Shark Week is an entire week dedicated to shark-based programming. It originally was based on conservation and education, and in the last decade blew up in popularity. But how much is it really educating? Most of the programs that are played during shark week are focused around brutal shark attacks, which in reality are rare events. By showing the deadly attacks, it increases the public’s fear of sharks, making people have a misconception on how frequently these events actually occur. Because people are getting so afraid of these marine giants, there is a chance conservation can be effected in negative ways.
It is very understandable why these T.V shows are attractive to the public. They are exciting and flashy and give people an adrenaline rush, but what are your chances of actually getting attacked by a shark?
-United States averages 16 shark attacks each year, lightning strikes kill more then 41 people each year
-Only 5 people die from shark attacks yearly
-You have a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the flu and 1 in 3,700,000 chance of being killed by a shark in your lifetime
-For every human killed by a shark, humans kill approximately 2 million sharks
-Over 375 species of sharks identified, only a dozen of them are considered dangerous
Sharks have a reputation that is more fearsome then their bite. The fear of sharks is actually irrational when you think about, considering you have a better chance of dying from the flu. People are watching this show for the purpose of entertainment, which is obviously a factor when picking a T.V show. Although, Discovery could do a better job on making it more about protecting and conserving them rather then just how brutal their attacks can be. While Shark Week does mention ways of protection and facts about sharks, the main programs are events that happen rarely.
Videos like this:
Should be shown more often then videos like this:
Videos like the “Killer Sharks” give a stigma to the species. Most sharks are more afraid of us then we are of them. They are not out to kill humans although unfortunately these rare events do occur.
There was a study conducted that looked at the public’s view of sharks. There was an online survey conducted with 500 participants in which they compared a Shark Week clip to a public service announcement regarding shark conservation. The participants watched a 3 minute video of a shark attack followed up by a PSA on conservation. The goal of this experiment was to see if “PSA’s could take a bite out of Shark Week’s violent portrayal of sharks”. The results of this study showed that watching the videos of the attack gave people the idea of an over-estimated chance of themselves getting attacked versus people that did not watch the video. The conservation video was not strong enough against the attack video, therefore still portraying the misconception of shark attacks. Read the full study here! http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1075547014547159?etoc=&.
Important Shark Conservation Facts:
-100 different species of sharks are threatened
-Shark hunting kills millions of sharks each year
-Sharks are an important part of marine ecosystems and they provide a balance in the food chain
-They are being fished at a rate faster then they can recover
Coral Reef Sharks
There are specific species of sharks that are found in the Coral Reef. Reef sharks are found in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean waters. This particular species have a slow reproduction rate, so keeping them protected from commercial fishing and by-catch is extremely important. Another common shark found in the reef are nurse sharks, which are more benthic then other sharks. They are not very large, ranging from 7.5-9ft long. The marine protection agencies are working hard to keep the sharks we have left safe and free from harm. Check out my previous blog post on some of the different organizations put in place that work to conserve these amazing species: https://marisabenjaminblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/reef-conservation-organization/
Because Shark Week is so popular, it has the potential to really raise awareness and protection for these animals. Instead of paying actors to recreate shark attack scenes and show brutal videos of people getting attacked, they should show videos on how people can help protect them. We need sharks and they are such a large part of the marine ecosystem. Shark Week is very controversial on whether it is informative about conservation, or labeling sharks with a false stigma.