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Shark Week Begins

While the rest of the world is increasingly appreciative of sharks and the magnificence of diving with them, Discovery Network continues to pedal its false portrayal of sharks as monsters.
  Ila France Porcher
Emma, a tiger shark used in a Shark Week episode, reveals her true nature as a sociable animal when she opens her mouth for James Abernethy to check the injury where he removed a hook.
Discovery Channel's Shark Week has begun again. The week-long shark extravaganza was first shown in 1987, and has become a major feature of Discovery's programming. Since its inception, it has been highly profitable for the network, but at what cost?
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Shark Week uses sharks for the horror-show effect that draws a wide audience. In the absence of any real sea monsters, Discovery has cast sharks in that role, following in the footsteps of the movie "Jaws", by dramatizing shark attacks, bloody waters, and the animals' unusual dentition. The show has created a wave of fear of the sea in the generation who grew up watching it.

Yet, "Jaws" was advertised as a fictional horror film, whereas Discovery claims that its horror shows are factual. Its website states that the company is “dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content.”

Hatred for sharks
After the movie "Jaws" was released, a wave of hatred for sharks arose that resulted in their mass slaughter, particularly along the east coast of America. Prior to that, sports fishermen had targeted fish, and considered sharks to be as undesirable as snakes.

Russell Drumm gives an eye-witness account in his book "In the Slick of the Cricket".

“The rotting juice of the competitors' tons of discarded sharks drips from the marina's 20 yard dumpsters. Next day, in the landfill, small mountains of sharks, still graceful in their piles, are claimed by seagulls and flies.”

The author also describes toothed whales being caught and ground up for shark bait. These whales were hung from telephone poles along with the sharks, as part of the general killing orgy.

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Later, when “catch and release” began to be practised, due to concern that the sharks were already disappearing, he wrote : “The cheaper hooks bought by the weekend warriors were more often than not swallowed by the sharks, which then fought their final battle gut-hooked. After being released, most sank to the bottom, dead.”

Frank Mundus told him, “Maybe two out of twelve [sharks] are hooked in the mouth. Add it up along the coast.”

Through denouncing sharks as monstrous killers, Discovery has so effectively convinced their millions of viewers that they deserve to be hated, that many people think that they should be hunted to extinction. Thus a serious barrier has been raised against shark conservation, while at the same time they are being over-fished to the verge of extinction.

Special effects
Through the use of extreme special effects, the natural motion and actions of the sharks shown are changed, sped up, or slowed, to make them appear more aggressive and frightening than they would if shown at normal speed. But the deceitfulness of the content extends to outright foolery. In one sequence, a wetsuit was stuffed with chunks of fish, sharks' favourite food. Not surprisingly, a tiger shark in the area finally bit the wet suit "dummy" in an effort to get at the food it could smell inside.

The viewers of the program were not told that the "dummy" was stuffed with smelly fish meat. Discovery presented the fraudulent sequence as evidence that sharks attack anything with a human form. Yet, it is well known that no shark species targets humans, and divers the world over swim with these same species of sharks.

Misrepresentation
When confronted about the misrepresentation of sharks by the company, Shark Week representatives laughed about Shark Week's “shark pornography” — their term - and claimed that they were only giving the public what it wants. But the public's love of horror shows has nothing to do with Discovery's responsibility for having made sharks the subject of that horror. A sequence in which turkeys were thrown to tiger sharks was described as science — the Shark Week personnel thought that throwing turkeys to big sharks was “cool.”

Scientists whose work has been used for Discovery Channel's Shark Week have found it to have been misrepresented by the network, and even discounted before viewers. Many consider the program to be nothing more than tabloid journalism, which does not reflect modern scientific knowledge.

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