Well, here it is- a full week dedicated to sharks!
There is no doubt that there is controversy surrounding Shark Week. Some conservationists and scientists are concerned that Shark Week not only plays into myths, fears, and falsehoods around sharks, but does not do enough to highlight the current challenges facing sharks such as overfishing, bycatch, and habitat degradation.
They have a point.
However, in the over 30 years Discovery’s Shark Week has premiered there have been changes and shifts in their programming. We see less NEW Shark Attack episodes and more episodes featuring research organizations. That is not to say Shark Week is perfect, but there have been improvements.
I did not have cable in the summers on Peaks Island, so as a teenager during Shark Week, I would often head down to the TEIA Club before sailing or before work to try to catch reruns of the previous night’s episode. I remember most of the episodes during that time being heavily focused on shark attacks and I would be lying to you if I denied that my teenage self did not find it dramatically entertaining. I would also not give Shark Week credit if I didn’t admit it played a significant role in leading me to do my own research. Whether about the ocean in general or sharks specifically, I left wanting to know more and to learn more- so, I dug deeper.
Every person who tunes into Shark Week doesn’t necessarily go down the same research path I did. We live in a time where our attention is often scattered diverting our attention to various causes- all causes that need and require our attention, but for one week, Discovery has been able to attract an enormous audience every year that focuses solely on sharks. Our diverted attention is finally focused on our oceans and to one of the most important species that lives underneath the waves.
Somewhere, a middle school student is learning about how sharks hunt. They are hearing how mysterious sharks still are and picturing themselves making discoveries- maybe they even are picturing themselves on Shark Week. They are discovering their love for sharks.
Somewhere, an adult is reliving their love of one the ocean's most important species. They are sharing that love with their family, friends, and taking time at night to decompress after work and enjoy episodes that excite them and remind them to explore their interests.
While Shark Week is not perfect, I can credit Discovery's Shark Week for helping me find my passion for sharks beyond the dramatic TV storylines. Like all of us do as we age, I hope that Discovery continues to evolve and continue to focus on the positives of sharks, the threats facing sharks, and ongoing research efforts to protect and learn more about shark species.
Do I think there will always be a Shaq vs Shark type episode? Yes.
Do you need to tune into it? No.
Can you? Sure.
All I ask is that we leave the dramatic storylines on the screen and continue to research beyond the latest Air Jaws episode.
Below you'll find my guide to the Do's and Don'ts of Shark Week and what episodes I am most looking forward to this week. By no means is this the go-to-guide and I am not "Shark Week" expert, but I'll hope you'll enjoy my personal tips in navigating this JAWESOME week!