Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SHARKS--Extreme Prejudice no one Sees

In 2014, Discovery Channel again followed its tried and true formula of using sharks to generate millions of dollars, by presenting them as monsters just waiting to get their teeth into the viewers. 

Discovery's angle seems to hinge on the fear people have of the unknown, and especially the unknown in the water where they swim. Shark Week has been so good at tweaking and magnifying this fear, that generations of viewers who grew up watching the show are afraid to go in the water.

Yet, all over the world wild sharks are welcome visitors during shark dives. How is this possible, without the divers being torn apart?

I asked divers to describe what they felt on finding themselves deep in the sea, surrounded by sharks, and they used similar words to describe their feelings. In every case, they spoke of being thrilled by the experience. Not frightened. Many expressed having a transcendent experience on meeting sharks for the first time, saying that nothing had prepared them for the riveting reality.

They spoke of feeling touched by the supernatural in the silence in which the sharks appeared, and of the sensation of being absolutely present and aware:

“You are part of their world for a moment—you enter their territory and they don't attack you. They come and swim around you, and they display perfectly. There is no aggression, but instead a feeling of communion, of really being together.”

“They move so slowly, yet you can see the power in their movements—they have incredible qualities you can sense.”

“They are your size, and you are there, one on one! You're looking, and its looking back, and you can see its response to seeing you, as if you have shared something—its a real encounter with an intelligent wild animal. Because of that communion you feel that sense of respect—you want to respect these animals because they respect you.”

“Its just magical to see them.”

What is wrong with this picture? How can they be talking about the same animal that is featured on Shark Week?

Strange to say, Shark Week isn't about sharks. Its about shark pornography (a Discovery term).

With shows entitled, “Shark of Darkness : Wrath of Submarine,” “Megalodon : The New Evidence,” “Air Jaws : Fin of Fury,” “JAWS Strikes Back,” “Alien Sharks : Return to the Abyss,” “Monster Hammerhead,” and “Zombie Sharks,” Shark Week is not about reality or science, in spite of frequent mentions of the word. It is about making money with a horror entertainment show.

When confronted about what they were doing by representatives from The Shark Group in a meeting in 2008, Discovery executives said that they were happy with their shark pornography. They bragged about the multi-billion dollar profit that their shows had generated since 1987, and claimed to be giving the audience exactly what they wanted by presenting horror shows. They were unconcerned that it was they who had made sharks the subject of that horror by showing little but stories featuring their open jaws, and bloody teeth.

They were also unconcerned about the ethics of demonizing endangered marine animals, while claiming to be presenting scientific facts. Their web-site claims to be presenting “quality non-fiction.”

Sharks have paid a terrible price for the riches made by Discovery. Along America’s east coast, the slaughter of sharks is obscene. The hatred launched against sharks over the decades has fuelled shark hate killings and monster shark tournaments, which, year after year, filled the landfills in countless towns and cities with mountains of decaying sharks.

Though catch and release has been claimed as the solution to this cruel massacre, expert eye-witnesses claim that the excited and malicious monster hunters fight more than 80% of the sharks gut-hooked—their fragile internal organs are sliced and torn apart, and upon their ‘release’ they simply sink.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce (NOAA), two million, seven hundred thousand sharks were killed by sports fishermen in the U.S. in 2011. This figure could be low if those killed on private boats, and not reported, were added in.

Nevertheless, many shark NGOs have joined in to capitalize on the exposure and the chance for donations, and even some scientists continue to go along for the ride. With tagging methods as the favoured means of gaining data on living sharks, the true natural behaviour of these important marine animals remains obscure to many researchers.

The problem is not only that there is a fatal prejudice against sharks, but that it is not even recognized. In the case of other animals, such as snakes, everyone knows that there is a deep bias against them, but in the case of sharks, the stark contrast between sharks as they are portrayed, and sharks as they really are is unseen. The public actually believes that sharks behave the way they are shown on Shark Week.

And Shark Week audiences are unlikely to try to find out the truth about sharks for themselves, because, of course, they are scared of them!

(c) Ila France Porcher 2014
photo credit : Tanya Izzard

Friday, August 15, 2014

Shark Week and Mega-Death

Shark Week in 2014 reveals the same old Discovery Network continuing to rake in a fortune by portraying sharks as the monsters of the human imagination.

By convincing viewers that sharks are man eating killers just waiting to saw them apart, since 1987, the company has facilitated their mass slaughter, including in monster tournaments along the east coast of the US, with almost no public sympathy nor protest.

And now, even non-fishermen can participate in the massacre by consuming the flesh of endangered shark species in American restaurants devoted to the Shark Week carnage.

The sad outcome underlines how the Discovery Network has erected an impenetrable barrier to their protection, of which the larger species of sharks that are accessible to fishing, are threatened with imminent extinction.

It is daunting to look out at the sheer power of destruction exercised by just this one corporation, in the results of its work. Reflection on the mega death it has caused just chills your soul.

The situation also raises serious questions about the psychology of a society whose future depends on creating a sustainable way of life.

When confronted about what they were doing by representatives from The Shark Group in a meeting in 2008, Discovery executives assured them that they were happy with their “shark pornography” as they called it. They bragged about the multi-billion dollar profit that their shows generated, and said that they were giving the audience exactly what they wanted by presenting horror shows.

They were unconcerned that it was they themselves who had made sharks the subject of that horror.

They were also unconcerned about the ethics of showing sharks as being very different from the way they really are, while claiming to be presenting scientific fact.

Shark Week has never produced a documentary showing the reality of shark finning, though that would be relatively easy for them considering the difficulties they seem to have in filming underwater.

And they have never produced a documentary showing the positive social behaviour of sharks, their intelligence, or any other documentary about sharks as they really are. Even sequences showing sharks swimming normally, are often manipulated to make them appear to speed up and slow down. It would be physically impossible for a shark to swim that way, yet that is one of the ways that the Shark Week creators try to make sharks look “scary and dangerous.” There are countless other examples, some of which are described in former postings below

But unfortunately Shark Week audiences are unlikely to go and try to find out about sharks for themselves, because, due to their taste in television shows, they are actually afraid of them!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Discovery's "Shark Week" Abuses Emma, Tiger of the Bahamas

Discovery's Shark Week starts tonight, portraying sharks just as dishonestly as ever. The company will be raking in a fortune on the backs of sharks as a result. Through their use of sharks for profit in horror shows, Discovery is responsible for erecting a virtually impenetrable barrier to the protection of these threatened marine species, which are being massacred to extinction.

Here is a video of one of their film crews abusing the beloved Emma, a sociable tiger shark of the Bahamas.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Shark Week -- Profits in Blood

Since 1987, Discovery Channel, owned by Discovery Communications, has presented 'Shark Week' each summer. The week long series of shows promotes these endangered marine animals as man eating monsters, facilitating their mass slaughter with almost no public sympathy, nor protest.

The company has so effectively convinced their millions of viewers that sharks deserve to be hated, that many people think that sharks should be hunted to extinction. The company has created a wave of fear of the sea, in people who grew up watching Shark Week.

Discovery executives know exactly what they are doing, and call it 'shark pornography,' while they rake in billions of dollars. They excuse themselves by claiming they are only giving the public what it wants, but the public's love of horror shows has nothing to do with Discovery's responsibility for having made sharks the subject of that horror.

Through their dishonest use of sharks for profit in horror shows, Discovery is responsible for erecting a virtually impenetrable barrier to the protection of sharks from being massacred to extinction.

Until recently, even the dangers to sharks from overfishing was covered up by Discovery, because they considered conservation to be an unpopular subject.

Scientists who's work has been used for Discovery's Shark Week have found it twisted and misrepresented by the company. Shark Week is nothing more than tabloid journalism, and does not reflect modern scientific knowledge.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Shark Week 2009 - Letter to Discovery




September 3, 2009

Open Letter to the Discovery Network

Object: Shark Week 2009,
Discovery's Tribute to The Year of the Shark

Mr. John Hendricks, Founder & Chairman,

Mr. David Zaslav, President & CEO


We, The Shark Group, wrote to you in June, about the nature of the new programs created for Shark Week 2009. We were concerned that you were focusing once more on sharks as dangerous man-eaters, thus misleading your viewers about their true nature, and facilitating their mass slaughter with almost no public sympathy, nor protest. Not only did we not receive a reply, but the programs themselves were worse than their titles and advertising.

You have misread and discounted your viewers in presenting such an extreme shark horror show, with absurd special effects. The contrast with your conservation message was so blatant that it has lost you your credibility.

The reports received predominantly reflect viewer's disgust with its lack of scientific content, its boring, repetitive theme of blood and teeth, and its hypocrisy. People then add that it was too stupid to watch.

Check this link for a typical summary of public judgement:


If your sole interest is presenting blood and horror for profit, why not have a Car Accident Week? That would be more relevant for a majority of viewers, since it would touch each one's daily life. You could be credited by increasing driving safety instead of being black listed as the company who profited unethically by demonizing the ocean's top predators while they went extinct.

As we have tried to convey to you in the past, the public is not so ignorant of the facts about sharks as you have apparently assumed.

Your tribute to The International Year of the Shark, Shark Week 2009, was a big mistake, which will discredit your company and affiliates, and increasingly damage your reputation as time passes.

We are greatly increasing our efforts to publicize the lack of ethics Discovery displays in presenting Shark Week. So perhaps you should start taking our concerns seriously, because ignoring this problem is not going to make it go away.

We will be waiting to see what you have planned for 2010.

Yours truly,

Ila France Porcher

Alex Buttigieg


The Shark Group

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Shark Week, or Human Week?

August 1, 2009, 9:43 am
Shark Week, or Human Week?
By Andrew C. Revkin


The Discovery Channel’s “ Shark Week” is here. There’s a decent amount of conservation info on the Web site and amid the saturation programming that’s otherwise focused on Carcharodon-style carnage. That may work as a kind of bait and switch, drawing eyes with fear and giving them data on environmental damage. (Here’s our review by Mike Hale.)

But I know more than a few marine conservationists and biologists who would rather see a week-long special, call it “Human Week,” on how humans have devastated marine ecosystems, and in particular have devastated shark species. (More here on overfishing, and prospects for change.)
Discovery’s Shark Week Web site asks, “What kind of shark are you?” Many biologists would ask, “What kind of species are we?”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Shark Tournaments and Fishing

Here is a description of the results of the release of the movie 'Jaws.' It is an excerpt from a book about shark fisherman, Frank Mundus, who led the massacre of sharks off America's East coast. Its called 'In the Slick of the Cricket' by Russell Drumm.

Prior to that, sports fishermen had mostly targeted fish to eat, and considered sharks to be 'inedible as snakes.'


“In Act One, a hundred plastic boats explode to life, tearing out of Montauk harbour (and every other harbour along the East Coast) before dawn, with enough engine and fuel to get them 30 miles offshore and back by evening weigh-in. At a $400 per boat entry fee, its Jaws glory and big cash prizes that drives them on...

“Act Two: In the afternoon. Flags and pennants fly. Blues, makos, hammerheads are raised on gin poles for the triumphant harbour entry. Hoisted again to the scales, in turn, to the ooohs and aaahs of hundreds of onlookers wearing tee-shirts advertising sharks, advertising marinas, ad infinitum. Oooohs and aaaaahs. The marina barker barks weights and the names of boats like Mako My Day... Daddy's Toy...... Four play.

“Yeeuk! squeals, as fisheries scientists, performing necropsies on already weighed beasts, turn the dock into a giant pizza with the works.

“Act Three: Nightfall. The rotting juice of the competitors' tons of discarded sharks drips from the marina's 20 yard dumpsters. Next day, in the landfill, small mountains of sharks, still graceful in their piles, are claimed by seagulls and flies.

“….I'm howling now at the captain's description of the victory-over-blue-shark ritual performed by his early anglers: “At first they brought 'em home to dump in somebody's swimmin' pool, to hang up somebody's flag pole. When we first started shark fishing there were blue sharks that wound up just about any place you could imagine. They put 'em in the phone booth here in Montauk... There was a blue shark in it the next day, standin' up. They had him all propped up, and they had his fin tied, had a hat on him, had a cigarette in his mouth. He was supposed to be makin' a phone call.” Ha ha oh boy.”

The author also describes 'black fish' (large dolphins, or toothed whales), who were caught and ground up for chumming sharks for these heroes, but which were also caught and hung from telephone poles, as part of the general killing orgy. Whales.

Later, when catch and release began to be practised due to concern that the sharks were already disappearing:

“ “Happy horseshit” says Frank. Without the Jap hooks he used, the ones designed by Japanese longline fishermen to stick in the jaws of fish, feeling good about tagging and releasing sharks was folly. The cheaper hooks bought by the weekend warriors were more often than not swallowed by the sharks which then fought their final battle gut-hooked. After being released, most sank to the bottom, dead.

Mundus said “Maybe two out of twelve are hooked in the mouth. Add it up along the coast.”

Our concerns about Discovery's portrayal of sharks a la 'Jaws' are due to the fact that the resulting hatred and fear of sharks motivates people to go out and kill them. This is even more of a concern because 'Jaws' was known to be a fictional horror movie, but Discovery claims to be showing facts about sharks when it refers to them as monsters, mindless killers, and countless other similar terms.

Discovery's continuous depictions of sharks as monsters is feeding the same killing frenzy which is seen in the countless shark fishing tournaments we are seeing now advertised one after another over Internet.

They are as responsible for the flight of sharks towards extinction as long-liners and shark fin soup through their mongering of lies. They not only have erected an effective barrier to shark conservation, but motivate thousands to go out and slaughter them.

The link to the Manifesto denouncing Discovery's practise, and demanding that they begin to portray sharks as they really are is listed on the right under Links.

With my thanks for hearing me.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

On the Interview with Paul Gasek, Shark Week Executive

David Shiffman's interview with Discovery's Shark Week executive Paul Gasek has taken place, and is posted on David's blog.


Gasek failed to address the point of our Manifesto--that his company is making a great deal of money victimizing sharks by cultivating hatred and fear of them, when they are on the verge of extinction.

He failed to address the fact that Discovery is considered by reputation to be an educational channel, so that people believe, when shown sharks as monstrous killing machines, that they really are. The truth is that they are not. People all over the world swim with sharks for pleasure, an activity which is possible because sharks are social, calm, intelligent, and do not target people for food.

As expected, Gasek repeated similar platitudes to those he gave The Shark Group representatives when they met with him. When asked about his background, he said he had experience making natural history programming, but he failed to mention that he spent 10 years as a commercial fisherman.

He also failed to mention the level of his scientific education, which is relevant given that he is the scientific advisor for Shark Week. A scientific advisor with no scientific education is questionable in itself. When our representatives met with him, he thought that throwing turkeys to tiger sharks was science.

At this meeting, he said that the horror factor of Shark Week was an institution, but that they were using it less. This year's subject matter consists of five out of six new shows focused on shark attacks, so no effort is being made to improve the content of Shark Week in terms of presenting sharks as they really are. Absolutely magnificent films about sharks have been turned down by them. The mention they make of the need for shark conservation is meaningless when they are causing people to think that sharks SHOULD be hunted to extinction.

Its natural that Gasek would use this opportunity to tell everyone how good Shark Week is but at our private meeting he laughingly referred to what they do as SHARK PORN, emphasizing how proud he is of it. It was clear, and clear to me from seeing what Discovery did to the verified information about shark social lives and intelligence that I offered them, that Gasek cares about sharks uniquely in terms of how much money they can make from them. He glosses over our pointed issues with the slipperiness of an eel.

From a recent article against trying to save sharks from extinction by Justin Clarke:

“Sharks scare the hell out of me. I’ve watched enough Discovery Channel to know that sharks are pure killing machines…”

The theme of the Manifesto is to denounce Discovery Channel, owned by Discovery Communications for profiting from the demonization of ordinary and important animals on the verge of extinction. It calls for a boycott against Shark Week programming until they begin to show sharks as they truly are. Since they began, in 1987, their crimes against sharks have earned them billions of dollars, and created a wave of hatred of sharks that stands in the way of their protection from extinction.

If you have not yet signed the Manifesto, here's the link again: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Boycott-Shark-Week

Thank you very kindly for your attention.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Influence of Discovery Channel

Here's the kind of thinking that comes from watching Discovery's Shark Week. Note: the author's attitude to sharks comes from Discovery Channel, and his resulting terror of sharks makes him strongly resist, and write about, how outrageous it is to try to save them from extinction.

Government to spend money on sharks?
by Justin Clarke

June 29, 3:00 PM


The house voted on a climate bill this weekend, so I thought I’d ramble o about conserving nature, and wasting money to do it as ineffectively as possible.

I went to ocean beach (OB) on Saturday, hoping to sneak in a quick surf before my bartending shift started. Let me tell you friend, the sea looked angry; I opted to stay dry. Anyone who surfs at OB will tell you that it can get plenty creepy out there on the darker days. The six-mile stretch of beach means that it’s easy to find an uninhabited peak or two, and even easier to wet yourself when you realize that you are the only person dumb enough to have paddled out into the blackness on that particular day. It’s just you and the local marine life – up here that means sharks.

Sharks scare the hell out of me. I’ve watched enough Discovery Channel to know that sharks are pure killing machines that never sleep and have eyesight poor enough to equate a human with a sealion. They discriminate between the two by ‘test-biting’ which sounds ridiculously like ‘nibbling,’ instead of the far more accurate ‘biting to death.’

Why am I writing about sharks? I recently read a report entitled ‘Sharks threatened with extinction,’ which bemoans the current plight of sharks and suggests that we take government action to mitigate the loss:

"The vulnerability and lengthy migrations of most open ocean sharks calls for co-ordinated, international conservation plans," she urged.

Excuse me? A conservation plan? Shouldn’t that read ‘extermination plan'? Let me be clear: I don’t know where these people are getting their numbers, but I think the desirable number of great white sharks is zero. Sharks are the ocean’s Nazis, indiscriminate murderers with black eyes and no souls. In a time of global recession, should we be worrying about sharks and setting money aside to make sure that sharks get a fair shake?

I read the rest of the article, which terrified me even more. Apparently shark fin soup is a delicacy in Asia:

To supply the market the wasteful process of "finning" often takes place, in which the fins are cut off the shark and the rest of the body is thrown back into the sea.

Oh, great. We’re just maiming the sharks and dumping them back in the ocean. Now I’m worried about super-pissed-off amputee sharks with no dorsal fin to signal an approach.

Don’t think we’re above the kind of useless spending that would protect Great White Sharks? Recently the government approved over 3 million dollars to create a tunnel under I-27 in Florida. The tunnel is for turtles, who apparently don’t like using the already-existing culvert to cross under the highway. I’m amazed the turtles are settling for a lousy 3 million dollar tunnel; if they held out I’m sure they could upgrade to some kind of miniaturized reptilian gondola system. Or, if you don’t care about sharks or turtles or nature, we could just set that pile of money on fire.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why Boycott Shark Week?

Discovery Communications has twisted and warped the interviews of researchers on sharks since 1987 in order to present them as scary and dangerous, while pretending to be telling the scientific truth.

They themselves laughingly call it "shark porn."

Now we are in the Year of the Shark and once again Discovery will make millions of dollars by casting sharks as monsters in Shark Week 2009.

The new titles are:

BLOOD IN THE WATER (focuses on shark attacks)

DAY OF THE SHARK (focuses on shark attacks)

DEADLY WATERS (focuses on shark attacks)

GREAT WHITE APPETITE (focuses on the most frightening shark species)

SHARKBITE SUMMER (focuses on shark attacks)

As the large species of sharks approach extinction, Discovery's deliberate misrepresentation of them to encourage people to hate and fear them, is a crime against life.

All efforts to reason with those responsible have failed, (see below) so the members of The Shark Group felt obliged to go to the next level of protest.

We wrote the following Manifesto, calling for a global boycott against Shark Week programs, and posted it on the petition site.

To sign, just click on the link at right, "The Link to the Manifesto"

Thank you.

The Manifesto

We, the organizations, researchers, and divers who foresee the imminent extinction of the large shark species, demand a stop to Discovery Communication's dishonest use of sharks for profit.

Since 1987, Discovery Channel has annually presented 'Shark Week.' This week-long series of programs featuring sharks claims to present facts about sharks, and its popularity has earned the company billions of dollars.

Discovery Channel is owned by Discovery Communications, which claims to be “dedicated to upholding the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct.”

Discovery's scientific credibility and reputation has resulted in the wide-spread belief in the truth of the shows televised on Shark Week.

In reality, Discovery uses sharks for the horror-show effect that draws a wide audience. Shark Week dramatizes shark attacks, blood and the animals' unusual dentition, to frighten viewers. Since no true sea monsters have been discovered, Discovery has cast sharks in that role, following in the footsteps of the movie “Jaws.”

But “Jaws” was advertised as a fictional horror film, whereas Discovery presents its horror shows as scientific truth. A recent example consisted of stuffing a dummy's wet suit with fish pieces and letting the dummy snorkeller float at the surface. Not surprisingly, a tiger shark, who had been attracted to the area, tried to get to the food source by biting the 'snorkeller'. The viewers were not told that the dummy's wetsuit was filled with smelly fish parts, and Discovery presented the producer's fraudulent sequence as evidence that sharks are likely to attack any swimmer in the sea. This is just one of countless ways in which Discovery Communications has lied to its viewers to show sharks as dangerous.

The fact is that no shark species target humans for food and people all over the world swim and dive with sharks for pleasure—the same species that Discovery infers will attack and kill people.

Scientists who's work has been used for Discovery's Shark Week have found it twisted and misrepresented by the company. For those who are familiar with sharks, Shark Week is nothing more than tabloid journalism, and does not reflect modern scientific knowledge.

Until recently, even the dangers to sharks from overfishing was covered up by Discovery, because they considered conservation to be an unpopular subject.

So after Shark Week 2007, the authors, representing the Shark list (now The Shark Group), sent a letter to Discovery Channel, outlining the above concerns. It was signed by 352 people and resulted in a three and a half hour meeting with Discovery executives. The Shark Week phenomenon and lack of ethics in its portrayal of sharks was openly discussed, but Discovery's representatives saw no problem with it. While they did include some information on the need for shark conservation in 2008, they continue to present sharks as monster man-eaters, thus reinforcing the biggest obstacle to their protection.

Therefore, since:

~Discovery Communications uses endangered marine animals to provide horror shows for profit, facilitating their mass slaughter with almost no public sympathy, nor protest

~Discovery has so effectively convinced their millions of viewers that sharks deserve to be hated, that many people think that sharks should be hunted to extinction

~Discovery has created a wave of fear of the sea, in people who grew up watching Shark Week

~Discovery executives know exactly what they are doing, and call it 'shark pornography,' while they bring in millions of dollars

~Discovery excuses itself by claiming it is only giving the public what it wants, though the public's love of horror shows has nothing to do with their responsibility for having made sharks the subject of that horror

~Discovery is as responsible for the decline of sharks towards extinction as the market for shark fin soup

We call for an International boycott of all of Shark Week's programs until Discovery
Communications stops using sharks dishonestly for profit in horror shows, and starts presenting them as the important marine animals that they are, now in danger of extinction.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Discovery's View of Sharks

Here's an excellent example of how Discovery twists and warps science to promote the idea that sharks are dangerous killers. To seriously compare the hunting strategies of any predator with that of an obsessive and murderous primate is absurd.

From the perspective of an ethologist, for example, the observation that sharks know when they are visible and when they are hidden indicates self awareness. Discovery's interpretation couldn't be worse for sharks.

If you have not yet signed our Manifesto regarding the wrong that Discovery is doing to sharks, please do so now: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Boycott-Shark-Week

Great White Sharks Hunt Like Serial Killers
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

June 22, 2009 -- Sharks may only kill for food, but they share similar strategies with human serial killers: They lurk out of sight, stalking their victims.

Sharks and human serial killers can both be tracked using geographic profiling, according to a new study that applied this investigative technique to the hunting patterns of great white sharks, the world's largest known predatory fish.

(snipped) http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/06/22/shark-attacks.html