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Shark Week 2015 - A Scientific Illustrator's Perspective

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"[Shark Week] taught us that it wants to be almost like a holiday—which it is for a lot of people. They want to wave little flags that say 'Happy Shark Week.' I always see pictures of all these cupcakes and these party decorations that they have to celebrate Shark Week." -Brooke Runnette, Former Executive Producer of "Shark Week"

Brooke Runnette, the former executive producer of Discovery Channel's "Shark Week," told The Atlantic the show's programming is developed by asking "What would be the most fun?"

While Runnette, who is now president of National Geographic Studios, deserves some accolades for making inroads with both the scientific community and conservation groups, Shark Week continues to fall short of what most shark scientists consider "helpful" when it comes to educating the general public about sharks.

Fun & Fear 

I love fun as much as the next person, but the trouble with fun being in the driver's seat when it comes to the longest-running cable television programming event in history is that the subject matter—sharks—are increasingly serious business requiring a more thoughtful approach than fear-centric shows like "Return of the Great White Serial Killer" and "Sharksanity 2." 

When it comes to sharks and fear, the data show that sharks have far more reason to fear humans than humans have to fear sharks. Because of their life history and reproductive strategies, sharks are already more vulnerable than many other ocean species. Add shark finning, unmanaged fisheries, habitat degradation and bycatch to the equation, and it's no wonder that so many of the world's shark species are at risk.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List, more than half of pelagic shark species fished legally and illegally in the open ocean are threatened or near threatened with extinction. While millions of people tune into Shark Week, the Pew Charitable Trusts says 1.9 million sharks will be harvested—that's roughly 11,200 sharks an hour.

Shark Week at Karen Talbot Art

I recently completed a series of eight scientific illustrations of Gulf of Maine shark species for the next issue of Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors Magazine. Guess what? Shark Week 2015 is scheduled to run eight days starting today! While I know I will have nowhere near the 30 million viewers who will tune in to Discovery Channel each day, I hope some of you will tune in for my Shark Week blog entries, which I promise you will be fact-based and data-driven with an emphasis on the importance of shark conservation. I'll also be offering special Shark Week sales and promotions all week long, so please check back daily.

Shark Week Blog Entries

Sunday, July 5th: Thresher Shark

Monday, July 6th: Blue Shark

Tuesday, July 7th: Spiny Dogfish

Wednesday, July 8th: Sand Tiger Shark

Thursday, July 9th:

Friday, July 10th:

Saturday, July 11th:

Sunday, July 12th:


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