Things to Keep in Mind While You’re Watching Shark Week

Written by on August 4, 2011 in Marine Life, Policy & Ocean Law

Emily Tripp
Senior Writer

Discovery channel’s “Shark Week” has been going strong for 24 summers.  It has gained more than 20 million viewers every year since 1995.  While it’s safe to say that this series promotes shark education, there are many who worry that there isn’t enough emphasis on conservation.

Hammerhead shark

Hammerhead shark

With show titles like “Rogue Sharks”, “Killer Sharks” and “Top Five Eaten Alive” it’s easy to see why many viewers are concerned about this.  But these titles are often extremely misleading.  The one called “Top Five Eaten Alive” is not about humans being eaten alive by sharks; it’s about five people who were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time but all survived.

But while many of these titles are frightening and accompanied by ominous music, many of the people who contribute to or are interviewed on these shows are people who love sharks and are working to protect them.

Maybe next summer the Discovery Channel will listen to those concerned about conservation and start showing documentaries like Sharkwater that expose just how vulnerable sharks really are and how humans are really the most dangerous creature on this planet.

So for now, enjoy the rest of the week but keep these facts in mind:

  • According to Discovery, between 1999 and 2009 an average of five people were killed by sharks each year.  But every year an estimated 73 million sharks are killed, primarily for their fins; that’s 8,333 sharks per hour.
  • Shark finning is the process of catching sharks, cutting off their fins and discarding their still-living bodies at sea.  The sharks then either starve to death or drown.
  • Humans have only been around for 200,000 years.  Sharks have been swimming the oceans for over 34 million years, even before dinosaurs walked the earth.
  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 30 percent of shark and ray species assessed are threatened or near-threatened with extinction.
  • Sharks are slow growers and late to mature which makes them particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation and slow to recover.
  • From 1970 to 2005 the populations of smooth hammerheads, bull and dusky sharks along the east coast of the U.S. declined by 99 percent.  In the last 200 years the populations of all shark species in the Mediterranean sea have declined by 97 percent.

But here’s some good news:

  • President Obama recently signed the Shark Conservation Act into law which closes previously exploited loopholes in shark finning policy.
  • In the past three years, 926,645 square miles of our oceans have been declared free of shark fishing.
  • June 22, 2011: Chile voted to end shark finning
  • June 24, 2011: Honduran president announced permanent shark sanctuary
  • July 5, 2011: Bahamas announces shark sanctuary


Discovery also provides many links to pages that demystify shark myths and promote conservation.


And here are some more links to shark conservation efforts:


I'M STUCK IN A COMIC! © 09 By Matt Rosen

I’M STUCK IN A COMIC! © 09 By Matt Rosen

 view more of Matt’s artwork here.

Copyright ©  2011 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC


About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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