I finally got around to watching some of the Shark Week episodes that I wanted to see. The one highest on my list was Alien Sharks. The write up was: Alien Sharks is back on Shark Week to find the strangest shark in the waters. Dr. Craig O’Connoll travels to the Bass Strait for sawsharks, while Victoria Elena Vasquez and Dr. David Ebert go into deep water in Tokyo Bay to find the goblin shark. I love the specials where they go super deep because we see marine life that is super rare.
Some of the previews looked like they had pulled up some of the sharks which I thought was a little strange. They usually ventured to the depths instead of pulling them from their habitat but I thought ok, we’ll see what happens.
It starts off with meeting one of the teams while they went searching a Tokyo fish market looking for a goblin shark, hoping to either find one on ice or that the fishermen had seen some around. While they were asking the fishermen there were shots of people processing fish-descaling and cutting huge chunks up to sell.
It became very evident that this show/the researchers did not care about any other marine life other than the sharks they were looking for. The Tokyo team went out with a fisherman who, the reason he’d pulled up so many goblin sharks was because he put his nets so much deeper than others to pull up the big Japanese spider crabs that were “big money”. The fisherman, when interviewed, actually said that the sharks were “trash” to him, which made me think what he did with them when the researchers weren’t with him. Does he throw them back or does he leave them to die on his boat because he’s too busy with the crabs? It’s also not unheard of for fishermen to just kill the sharks or other marine life that gets caught in the nets right away.
The first day the researchers went out with him they found a few different types of sharks and I assumed they were going to take measurements and throw them back. Nope. They brought a few back to shore with them to take measurements and pictures. Which means that the sharks that they had pulled from the ocean were dead. All of this footage was interspersed with shots of other fishermen throwing these STILL LIVING crabs into a bucket to get ready to sell.
The second team in Tasmania was looking for sawsharks, specifically to tag them to see how far they go. They brought up a bunch right away, tagged them and released them. One researcher attached a camera to one and was able to record some footage. (They had to retrieve the camera in order to get the footage). The second time they went out they went with a fisherman who regularly brings in and sells sawsharks.
Discovery Channel says they’re “committed to sharks and the health of our oceans” but they’re hiring fishermen who make their livings off of over fishing and selling sea creatures-some living some dead. The Tokyo fisherman seemed like he went out often for the crabs. Which, according to a Wikipedia article about spider crabs, “The population has decreased in number due to overfishing, forcing fishermen into exploring deeper waters to catch them”.
I was only able to watch this special online but during the commercial breaks, guess what made its appearance….yep commercials specifically mentioning the Shark Week specials at seafood restaurants. I find it totally ironic that many of these specials, during Shark Week or other times, are supporting the conservation of animals and land while the commercials try to entice you to eat the very thing they’re saying to protect. Talk about dissociation amongst watchers. They even mentioned with the Tasmania team that regardless of what is brought up it’s sold and made into food (while showing images of fried fish).
After that episode which made my stomach churn, I really felt like I’d watched my last Shark Week but I decided to try at least one more. The other was about the great hammerheads and it was much better. Research by observation to figure out why they come and leave Bimini, Bahamas and with the intent to cause very little stress to the sharks. (Spoiler alert: the sharks are pregnant and feast up before heading back to their place of birth to have their pups. Also, these sharks have 20-50 pups at a time every two years! Crazy!!)
So I’m conflicted on Shark Week. There seem to be some great researchers who really care about protecting these animals while others say they care but go about really shady ways of researching. Do we not question them because they’re researchers? I understand that research has to involve some non-living specimens but can we focus more on seeing how they live while they’re alive rather than theories after they’ve been purposefully pulled from the ocean for studies?
P.S. A special Thank You shout out goes to my husband for listening to my long winded rant about Alien Sharks before it was put into writing.