Research paper topic on Shark Week: More fact or fiction?

Fans may still be tuning in, but that doesn’t mean that many aren’t furious with the Discovery Channel, which has yet again offered up mostly fictitious programming during their now infamous Shark Week. This season’s “catch”?

Shark Week presents issues of what is fact or fiction. (Credit: SharkWeek.tumbler)

Shark Week presents issues of what is fact or fiction. (Credit: SharkWeek.tumbler)

That would be Shark of Darkness: The Wrath of Submarine, which follows on the heels of last year’s Megalodon Mockumentary. Will the lack of facts create yet another Shark Week controversy?

Fiction disguised as fact

For 27 years, the Discovery Channel has been enticing viewers with its now infamous Shark Week. And if the channel didn’t present itself as a science education channel there might not be any Shark Week controversy at all. The problem lies in the fact that it has become harder and harder to separate the Discovery Channel’s fact-based programming from its more fictitious offerings.

But that isn’t the only problem with the shows during Shark Week. As “Scientists Say Shark Week Is Dead in the Water” by David Ludwig for thewire.com, posted August 13, 2014, reveals, many scientists are upset because their contributions to programs have been edited out of context. Ludwig wrote, “Many scientists claim that their words or research has been distorted by the Discovery Channel to appeal to viewers by sensationalizing and twisting facts.”

Shark Week controversy highlights

Unfortunately, the Megalodon Mockumentary is not the first time that the Discovery Channel has twisted facts to generate interest in Shark Week. Pete Vonder Haar blogged, “‘Shark Week’ Has Officially [Puts On Sunglasses] Jumped The Shark” August 13, 2014, for the Houston Press with other examples:

  • Shark of Darkness: The Wrath of Submarine—“an ‘investigation’ into the existence of a supposed 30-plus-foot great white that’s plagued the inhabitants of South Africa for decades.” Discovery Channel ran a disclaimer saying that events had been dramatized, but the reality is the vast majority of the show was fiction.
  • Sharkageddon—a look at a so-called increase in shark attacks in Hawaii during 2014. Unfortunately, the reality is there has only been one attack recorded so far this year.
  • Megalodon: The Monster Shark Livesthe alleged 60-foot shark has never been seen by any person, ever. 

Facts about sharks

So how worried should the average person be about a shark attack? Well of course Discovery Channel and its Shark Week would have you think our oceans are filled with giant predators just waiting to nibble on you. The reality is quite different. In “High-Tech Atlanta Exhibit Bites into Shark Myths” written by John Bordsen for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review June 6, 2010, Bordsen shared that sharks may be the ones in danger, “Sharks grow slowly and are not heavy breeders. Throw in habitat destruction and the case is made that sharks are globally under attack.”

The article reviews the traveling “Planet Shark: Predator or Prey” exhibit that was created in Australia. While it does share information about shark attacks on humans, it also passes on that those attacks are very rare, with people dying from the attacks even more unlikely. The exhibit includes real documentaries about shark attacks, including, “the story of Australian Rodney Fox, who was attacked by a 16-foot great white. His injuries required 400 stitches; his ripped wet suit is on display.”

Unfortunately, the fans are still tuning in to watch the fake shows that Shark Week churns out, so odds are the Discovery Channel will keep making more of the same—programs presented as factual that are actually far from real. Perhaps viewers should have clued in when the channel offered programming about mermaids. 

Want to learn more about oceanography? Check out Questia—particularly the section on marine biology

Is Shark Week past its prime? Should people even be tuning in to the Discovery Channel for factual programming anymore? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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