- CRITTER TALK
The channel got right down to it with the amazingly titled “Air Jaws Apocalypse,” which featured the aptly named “Colossus” going after seals like Pac-Man goes after Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde after ingesting a power pellet.
Not that the Games weren’t great — they were Usain — but there’s just something about a huge beast shimmering with the metallic beauty of a new Buick — and going about as fast — barreling toward the camera with a wreath of daggers for teeth.
Perhaps “Goosebumps” author R.L. Stine summed it up best, tweeting: “Now that the Olympics are over, we can enjoy the REAL event of the summer– Shark Week!”
As human greed drives sharks toward extinction, I have to wonder if, 25 years from now, Shark Week will run on The History Channel instead. After more than 400 million years on planet Earth, sharks are being decimated by overfishing and the lucrative trade in shark fins. Shark-fin soup, a delicacy symbolizing wealth and status in China, now sells for as much as $100 a bowl in that country. Fishermen cut off the fins, then toss sharks back into the ocean where they bleed to death.
Humans take the lives of approximately 73 million sharks a year, and threaten one-third of shark species with extinction. Brutal reports of thousands of lifeless, finless sharks found on the ocean floor, such as this report about the Colombian coast, reveal the recklessness of turning nature into a commodity.
Because sharks mature late and produce few young, they cannot possibly reproduce at the same rate at which we kill them. By contrast, shark attacks only lead to about 6 to 12 reported deaths of humans per year globally.
Naturally, there are many reasons why protecting sharks is not the cause of choice for the average Westerner. For one thing, sharks are scary. And the centuries-old practice of eating them – part cultural tradition, part big business – is mostly happening on the other side of the world.
Most Americans don’t eat shark-fin soup, so why should they feel responsible for the slaughter that makes it possible? Besides, with crises such as hunger threatening nearly one billion people worldwide, and the dark economic cloud looming over the rest of us, we have more pressing concerns.
We can no longer afford to make excuses. Over half of the world’s people depend on the oceans to provide their primary protein sources. If hunger is a global crisis now, imagine what will happen when those food sources disappear as the marine food chain is drastically altered. Today, we risk losing sharks – and tens of thousands of other species we depend on – to what scientists are calling the sixth great extinction (think dinosaurs).
This is unique to the last five extinction periods in history for one reason: Humans are causing it by driving sharks and millions of other living creatures toward the endangered list in order to uphold tradition and economic structures. As shark numbers decrease, fin traders and fisherman may ultimately run themselves out of business, but not before other parts of the ecosystem collapse.
On a lighter note:
In 2000, six million 3D Pulfrich glasses were distributed to viewers in the United States and Canada for an episode featuring an extinct giant shark, which had 3D segments.
In 2005, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from the Discovery Channel series MythBusters hosted Shark Week, and a two-hour MythBusters “Jaws Special” was premiered for the event.
In 2006, Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs hosted, and two Dirty Jobs episodes were featured, titled “Jobs that Bite” and “Jobs that Bite…Harder”. Also during the week, the Silver Spring, Maryland, headquarters of the Discovery Channel was outfitted to resemble a giant shark.
In 2007, Discovery Channel celebrated Shark Week’s 20th Anniversary hosted by Les Stroud, host of Survivorman. The 20th anniversary included the launch of Sharkrunners, a video game that uses GPS data from tagged sharks in the Pacific Ocean.
Shark Week 2008 ran from July 27 to August 2 and was hosted by both the MythBusters and Mike Rowe. Both a new MythBusters shark special and a shark-themed episode of Dirty Jobs premiered for the event.
2009’s Shark Week began the evening of August 2.
Shark Week 2010, hosted by The Late Late Show‘s Craig Ferguson, began on August 1 and featured six brand-new shark specials. It was advertised by the second appearance of the giant inflatable shark attached to the Discovery Channel building, now nicknamed ‘Chompie’. Shark Week 2010 was rated the most viewed Shark Week ever with 30.8 million unique people. Shark Week is now considered the longest running program event on cable.
Shark Week 2011, hosted by Andy Samberg, began on July 31. It featured seven specials.
Shark Week 2012, hosted by Philip DeFranco, started August 12 at 8 PM CST. After being absent in 2011, ‘Chompie’ the giant shark is once again being displayed on the Discovery Channel Building. To honor the series’ upcoming 25th anniversary, viewers may vote via Twitter or Facebook on which item a mechanical megalodon shark will crush with its hydraulic jaws in the “Shark Week Chompdown”.