As a wee child of the seventies, if you had the misfortune of experiencing the big screen terror-fest known as Jaws (or any of its three non-Steven Spielberg-affiliated sequels), your wide-eyed innocence and natural appreciation for all creatures great and small may have been forever shattered by your understandable fear of being torn apart limb by limb. This is the pop culture perspective of sharks that many of us have, but the reality is that the deep sea predator is facing an ongoing battle of its own for survival due to human-caused threats including widespread oceanic pollution, habitat damage, overfishing and the worst issue of all – shark finning.
Each year, vast fishing operations catch up to 100 million sharks at sea, cutting off their dorsal and pectoral fins while they are still alive before dumping the creatures back into the ocean. Their compromised mobility ends up causing them to sink to the ocean floor where they either die of starvation, succumb to suffocation or end up becoming a snack for a larger predator. This practice fuels the demand for shark fin soup which is considered a highly sought-after luxury menu item in many Asian and European cultures but the consequence is that shark populations have become depleted by well over 90% in the last three decades.
The Discovery Channel – which has teamed up with the conservation organization Oceana (and even donated money to help their shark protection efforts) — intends to educate the public about the often misunderstood and maligned deep sea species with their 23rd annual Shark Week, beginning Sunday August 1st. Their special event stands out this year thanks to the use of high tech, super-slow-mo cameras that capture outstanding footage of the creatures in crystal clear detail, from the power of their bite (with film capturing what happens inside of their jaws) to countless intriguing facts that will make viewers develop a soft spot in their hearts much in the same way that noted wildlife cinematographer Andy Brandy Casagrande IV has. Sandwiched between their diverse collection of shark-themed programming will be various public service announcements that help viewers to comprehend the precarious state that the predators really are in at this moment in time.
For those who get bitten by shark-mania, the festivities extend to Discovery Channel’s website where info-geeks can enjoy interactive resources, brand new mind-blowing shark videos and countless other cerebral diversions. Here’s a tasty snack you can really sink your teeth into — an all-new Shark Week teaser (below)…and if you are compelled to do a little more to make a difference, consider donating whatever you can afford to aid Oceana’s conservation projects or sign these anti-shark finning petitions via Shark Savers.