Yuba-Sutter folk, unless they travel to the ocean, don’t have much to worry about, shark-wise. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be fascinated by TV sharks.
For more than 30 years, “Shark Week” has been swimming into living rooms everywhere – featuring programming about the ocean predator. The annual Discovery Channel feature began last Sunday and is set to end this Sunday.
A Ph.D. candidate at UC Davis says this type of programming can be a double-edged sword.
Alexandra McInturf, who studies animal behavior and whose research specialty is shark behavior, said while “Shark Week” can be a valuable educational tool for people to learn about one facet of the ocean, it can also give people the wrong idea about sharks.
“I grew up watching ‘Shark Week,’ I know a lot of marine biologists who did,” McInturf said. “... (However), there’s been a big push to limit the sensationalism that is inherent in ‘Shark Week.’”
She said much of the time, the programming features the larger and top predator sharks, such as white sharks.
“There are over 500 species of sharks, most of them are less than 3 feet long,” McInturf said. “... The ones ‘Shark Week’ features are these big, migratory animals – these are the ones that can be more mysterious to us, I would say.”
She said some other concerns include the use of suspenseful music during the features, which can provoke a fear response and change the way people interpret the show. And some of the language used in the programs – such as using the word “attack” – can suggest a shark going after a person was intentional.
“More often than not, it’s a case of mistaken identity,” McInturf said.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, shark attacks don’t happen too often offshore of California. Since 1950, there have been 185 shark incidents in the state involving all species of sharks – of those, 13 were fatal and 102 resulted in nonfatal injuries.
Many sharks rely on the elements of surprise and stealth when hunting – meaning if a person is swimming at the surface of the water, a shark may think they’re a seal.
McInturf said she encourages people who go to the beaches to be aware and to get involved in learning more about sharks.
“Sharks are elusive,” she said, which can make it difficult for researchers to gather data.
People can report sightings to local agencies or researchers – McInturf said researchers often rely on everyday people when attempting to gather more information on sharks.
She said there are several things people can do to be more aware of their surroundings when spending time at the beach or in the ocean:
– Know the area: Look to see if there have been past shark encounters.
– Know what species one may encounter: Be wary and research what the season may bring – like if white sharks may be migrating through the area during that time of year.
– Are there seals around? Seals are common prey for white sharks and so swimming near seals at dawn or dusk is not advised, McInturf said.
– Other animal activities: If there is a lot of fish activity or a lot of birds in the area, McInturf said, there could potentially be sharks hunting.
Shark Week viewing schedule:
Shark Week on the Discover Channel – a more than 30-year long tradition – is set to continue today and Sunday.
Today, the Discovery Channel has a few programs scheduled to run and to end the celebration of the ocean predator on Sunday, the Discovery Channel plans to air encore presentations of the biggest specials from throughout the week – which began on July 28, according to the Discovery website.
According to Discover, these are the shows that are planned to be aired today (as of Wednesday, afternoon):
Ultimate Guide to Alien Sharks –
Bear vs. Shark – Noon-1 p.m.
Capsized: Blood in the Water –
1 p.m.-3 p.m.
Laws of Jaws –
3 p.m.-4 p.m.
Laws of Jaws: Dangerous Waters – 4 p.m.-5 p.m.
Great White Kill Zone: Guadalupe – 5 p.m.-6 p.m.
The Sharks of Headstone Hell –
6 p.m.-7 p.m.
Sharks of the Badlands: Sharkmania – 7 p.m.-8 p.m.
Sharks Gone Wild 2 – 8 p.m.-9 p.m.
Shark Week Immersion –
9 p.m.-10 p.m.
Shark Trip: Eat Prey Chum –
Sunday programs beginning at 9 a.m.:
Monster Mako: Perfect Predator –
9 a.m.-10 a.m.
Cuba’s Secret Shark Lair –
10 a.m.-11 a.m.
Extinct or Alive: The Lost Shark –
Sharkwrecked: Crash Landing – Noon-1 p.m.
Shaq Does Shark Week –
1 p.m.-2 p.m.
Shark Trip: Eat Prey Chum –
2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Expedition Unknown: Megalodon – 4 p.m.-5 p.m.
Guy Fieri’s Feeding Frenzy –
5 p.m.-6 p.m.
Great White Abyss – 6 p.m.-7 p.m.
Legend of Deep Blue: Sharkmania – 7 p.m.-7:59 p.m