For as long as humans have roamed the Earth, sharks have swam the oceans. In fact, sharks have been around for much longer than us…about 100 times longer, to be exact! Sharks have been in existence for about 450 million years, and we are currently aware of about 450 different species of shark, discovering new ones each year!
The truth of the matter is that we really don’t know all that much about sharks, but what we do know is that these ocean creatures are as fascinating as they are mysterious, because not much is directly known about their breeding, migrating, or feeding habits. Luckily, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week airs once a year to teach us all about the latest findings within the marine science community.
Every year during the summer, this weeklong series focuses on the fascinating lives of the most feared ocean creatures, sharks! This biting program has aired since 1988, making it the longest running cable television event in history. Shark Week focuses on the habits of these elusive animals, and seeks ultimately to debunk irrational fears that people have developed surrounding these ocean apex predators.
Shark Week has been educating the public for decades, and has helped to make incredible strides for the conservation and advocacy of these often overlooked and misunderstood animals. In fact, one could argue that Shark Week has boosted the popularity of these elusive predators in mainstream media. Beginning with this weeklong series, public fears and curiosity were confronted with cool shark facts and fascinating footage, which captivated audiences and began to assuage our age-old shark fears. In fact, there’s been a noticeable shift in the general public’s outlook on our most feared ocean-dwelling friends.
For instance, a few Great White Sharks made headlines last year when they beached themselves on the coast of Cape Cod. As opposed to running the opposite direction, beachgoers ran instead to their rescue. The footage of the public running to the aid of these long feared creatures and the immediate Internet attention this video received shows how people’s perspectives have begun to take a turn for the better. Similarly, some of these White Sharks have massive twitter followings. OCEARCH, a shark research organization, developed real-time tracking for a handful of White Shark individuals, giving them names like Mary Lee and Kathrine. These females and their movements captivated social media followers and have amassed a base of over 80,000 twitter followers, making them the most famous White Sharks of the ocean!
Thanks to the efforts of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week and organizations like OCEARCH, shark populations off US waters have begun to make a comeback. The North Atlantic population has bounced back from decimated numbers, and as well human perception has begun to see a shift from fear to fascination. These top predators may look scary from the outside, but they are key species to the oceanic ecosystem, and hey, sharks have feelings too! So be sure to tune in to Shark Week on June 26th, because it’s guaranteed to provide us with some incredible shark footage and scientific insight!