Shark Week has become one of the Discovery Channel’s most popular programs ever, except among a small dissident cohort made up of marine biologists, who are appalled by the way programming has veered from the scientific to the sensational over the course of its 27 year history.
Ironically, Discovery’s hype about its programs makes specific references to their contribution to science and the study of the ocean predators.
“For 27 years Shark Week has been the prime showcase for all things shark — science, legend and conservation concerns,” it said in a statement.
“Many marine biologists cite Shark Week as bringing them into that field. Discovery Channel has been one of the biggest contributors to furthering shark research and have paid for technology that has been critical in the studies,” it added.
But many of those “many marine biologists” are taking issue with the programs.
In video going viral on the Internet, Marine Biologist Collin Drake called Shark Week “baffling” because it has “so little biology in it.”
“Recently, it’s become more like a reality TV show than a series of major documentaries. And in the past two years it’s veered into really weird territory with Discovery Channel actually deceiving viewers about sharks,” he says.
Drake laments the early years back in the 1980s when the programs were really educational. Now, he says, the network focuses obsessively on so-called man-eating Great White sharks.
Over the last four years (2009-2013), however, less than one U.S. fatality a year, on average, has been attributed to a shark attack. In comparison, about 33 people a year were killed by dogs.
Meanwhile, so many sharks have been killed by humans that one-quarter of the estimated 400 shark species are now endangered. One species that no longer has that problem is the giant 100-foot-long prehistoric shark known as a Megalodon.
But a “Shark Week” show that aired last year clearly implied that Megalodons still roam the earth. One program re-enacted an “attack” that supposedly killed four people off the coast of South Africa last year. It never happened, according to Drake.
Although the shark has been extinct for 1.5 million years, 73 percent of viewers thought they were real after watching the show, according to an online poll.
Another scientist said he was tricked into participating in a Discovery program about sharks off the coast of Louisiana, where he’s studying them. The resulting show was titled “Voodoo Shark,” about a mythical monster shark called “Rooken.”
Check out the video below, let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow TheImproper on Twitter for the latest television news.
Editor’s Note: A hashtag, #FakeSharkWeekFacts, is being used by Twitter wags to make fun of the show. Check it out.