Starting this Sunday, August 1st, the fins will be circling on a television near you. Sunday kicks off The Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” an annual TV ritual that offers hours of programming about sharks—some bloody, some beautiful, some scientific, some sensational.
It’s great to see these sleek beauties of the sea getting some serious airtime, and we hope this week-long focus on sharks can help call attention to the issues sharks face and to our own species’ rocky relationship with them. Let’s face it, when it comes to sharks, many of us carry some very heavy mental baggage. Years of sensationalized media coverage, docudramas, and fictional movies that star killer sharks have stirred up an exaggerated fear in our collective psyche.
So, this summer, we challenge our visitors to take a second look at these magnificent creatures and to fight fear with facts. Here are a few ways to get started:
• Get to know sharks for real. Start with Five Reasons to Revere—Not Fear—Sharks. Then spend some time with perhaps the most notorious and feared shark of all: the great white. You may be surprised to find out what scientists know—and don’t yet know—about these animals.
• Watch programs about sharks with a discerning eye. Seek out programming that gives a well-rounded picture of sharks and explores biology, scientific research, and conservation activities. Take shows that focus on attacks and frenzies with a grain of salt. Remember that unprovoked attacks on humans truly are a rare occurrence. Sharks, however, have plenty to fear from humans.
• Remember that sharks, like bears or wolves on land, are wild animals. They are top predators that have the instinct and the finely honed skills to hunt. If you encounter a shark, never touch or harass it.
• Teach—and learn from—a new generation. If you’re watching TV shows or movies about sharks (or any wildlife) with your children or students, make sure they understand that TV does not always portray wild animals in realistic ways. Kids are really good at asking probing questions, bringing new perspectives to the table, and helping adults shake our mental baggage. With fresh eyes and the facts in front of them, young people can help revive sharks’ reputation.
As always, we’d love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts in the comments area below. If you’re short on time, you can still join the conversation by answering our question of the week on the Find Your Blue page: What word comes to mind first when you hear “shark?”