Friday, August 17, 2012
Thursday, September 3, 2009
THE SHARK GROUP
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.
Ila France Porcher
The Shark Group
Sunday, August 2, 2009
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
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
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
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
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"
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.
~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
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.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Since my posting resulted in much disagreement by those whose experience with sharks comes from watching television instead of sharks, this added explanation seemed necessary.
I am not implying that sharks do not use their mouths and teeth. Indeed they do, since their mouths are their one part adapted for the manipulation of the solid fraction of their environment.
They investigate objects by picking them up and feeling them with their mouths.
My point is that they don't raise their heads and bite automatically in moments of aggression as terrestrial vertebrates generally do. Even people in extremis will bite; instinct takes over when survival is threatened.
When my sharks got mad at me they didn't bite me--they slammed me.
The late Arthur Myrberg, who was an ethologist, listed many shark species he had watched in nature, and he told me he had never seen sharks fighting. I never saw them fighting either. Further, they maintain little or no inter-animal distance.
I have heard of white sharks biting others for allegedly territorial reasons, but the species has also been shown to have a ritualized conflict exchange, so they still seem to show less aggression than terrestrial predators.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
As one of the few people who has conducted a long term ethological study of sharks, and the only one who went alone to watch them under a wide variety of circumstances, I have long acquaintance with the phenomenon of fear. Often it took all my psychological force to compose my mind in order to overcome it, when things went wrong, and I found myself in tossing waters opaque with blood, and solid with excited sharks, in an unexpected situation for which I was unprepared.
For years, people told me, and I believed myself, that one day I would be bitten, and would bleed to death, or faint and drown, in consequence. Since I was alone, far from shore, often as night was falling, I could expect no one to save me.
These circumstances enhanced what appeared to be an instinctive tendency to react with darkening consciousness and soaring terror to certain visual cues. Yet, no matter what happened, no shark bit me, time after time.
Once I accidentally kicked one hard in the side--I didn't realize that the six foot animal was between my legs as I frantically tried to right myself in powerful current. I watched, appalled, expecting her to instantly turn and slash, but there was no change in either her speed nor trajectory as she curved around to lazily circle me. After many years, I could no longer dismiss their failure to bite as random coincidence. No other species with whom I had even a fraction of the intimacy I shared with sharks, had failed to bite me, either by accident or in a fit of pique. Why not all those sharks, hundreds of them, of four different species, some many times my size? It was something that exercised me often--for years my mind went over the question like an octopus over a crab in a jar, trying to understand.
Paddling my heavy kayak the long way home beneath the stars, after yet another terrifying incident, I would think it out again. Finally I developed the theory that our fear of sharks is based on the intrinsic knowledge that animals like us open their mouths instinctively to bite when they come in aggressive attack. Most other mammals, and most birds in my experience tend to do this, and certainly the great terrestrial predators, including primates, do. The mouth opens automatically, as part of the attack.
Us western humans, of course, are conditioned not to bite, but one can still become aware in extremities, that this instinct is present under the veneer of civilized conduct. So we assume--it just seems most natural--that sharks will behave that way too. But they don't. I believe that they do not share this instinct with us. And that is the key. With those mouths and shocking sets of teeth, our imaginations are undone considering them opening to bite us. I have formed the theory from watching them, that on the contrary, they have an inborn inhibition against biting companion animals. They don't regard us as prey, so they apparently view us as other animals in their ecological community.
Even the great white shark has been shown (by Professor Peter Klimley), to have a ritualized conflict when ownership of a seal prey comes into question. The shark who can splash water highest and farthest with its tail wins the seal, so a battle, which would gravely harm both sharks, given their dentition, is avoided. I have not yet found a researcher who has witnessed sharks fighting with each other, as we, and other mammals and birds often do. (Mating is not the same thing). So it wrongs them to suggest that they, like us, use their mouths in aggressive attacks.
Unfortunately, this instinctive fear has been used by the media to entertain us with horror shows, starring sharks as the only known monsters in the sea, and the resulting shark attack mania is one of the great obstacles to shark conservation.
Most of this information was conveyed to Paul Gasek et al at Discovery as part of our discourse over why their portrayal of sharks is wrong.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Subject: International Boycott of Shark Week Programs
Mr. John Hendricks, Founder and Chairman,
Mr. David Zaslav, President & CEO,
We, representing The Shark Group, wrote to you in July, 2007, with regards to the inauthentic material shown on Shark Week, portraying sharks as dangerous man-eaters. When your representatives contacted us, after what seemed to be a candid discussion of the problems involved, four of our people spent much time and money to travel to Silversprings, Maryland, to meet with them in your offices.
While at the time it seemed that our points were understood, we have waited to see some results, and found that we were simply ignored. The new programs advertised for Shark Week 2009, make it very clear that you are continuing to use endangered marine animals to provide horror shows for profit, facilitating their mass slaughter with almost no public sympathy, nor protest.
Indeed, Discovery Channel 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.
We have therefore moved to the next step, and launched 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.
Ila France Porcher
for The Shark Group