Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Shark Porn


Picture this.

A Production Company who know nothing about the subject proposes a documentary about Big Cats to a big Television Channel.

So far, they have produced "Lion Hunters" and "Lion Hunters II" where teams of big game hunters compete for bringing down the biggest lions.
The new show will feature the "Mountain Man", an extreme solo mountain climber and absolute ignoramus of felines. He will be safely sitting on the roof of a Land Rover from where he will throw a) a wheel of Emmenthal cheese b) a Yellowfin Tuna and c) a Black Forest Cake at the World's "deadliest Cats", i.e. a pride of African Lions, a Bengal Tiger and a Jaguar. Obviously, these groundbreaking experiments require that the team travel to the most iconic Wildlife Parks of Africa, India and South America, all expenses paid.

The Television Channel enthusiastically accepts and airs the piece during their "Safari Weeks". The Big Cat lovers are outraged but the Television Channel couldn't care less.
Business is Business.

Sound preposterous and stupid?
Look no further than Discovery Channel's "Shark Feeding Frenzy" where "Survivorman" Les Stroud throws Turkeys, Beef and Hams at some unsuspecting and undoubtedly surprised Sharks in the Bahamas and in South Africa!
Did the idiotic diet harm the animals? Probably not. Did the "experiments" lead to any insights, scientific or otherwise? Yeah, Right!

But, and this is important: did the show demean the Sharks and once again reduce them to nothing but dangerous and brainless eating machines? Very much so!

And what about the treatment of Sharks in "Shark Hunters" and "Shark Hunters II", the same Production Company's previous Shark "documentaries"?
You be the judge of that.



With the Shark Week 2009 shooting season in full swing, here come those very same guys with the following proposal for yet another Pro-Shark "documentary-entertainment show".

Titled "Deadly Waters", the plan is to travel to the five "most dangerous beaches for Shark attacks" where the waters are "infested with Sharks" and conduct a series of "experiments" to determine what causes the attacks. The locations they have chosen are the Bahamas, South Africa, Oz, Florida and... Fiji!
A list of questions includes
- what makes these specific locations so deadly?
- do you have any documented Shark attack case studies....?

Well, we sent them packing - and I herewith formally apologize to those well-meaning friends who sent them our way thinking that they were doing us a favor.

Thing is, we were not only outraged by their unacceptable portrayal of Sharks and the stupidity of their new "experiments" - but also and foremost, because of the damage they were intending to inflict to the reputation of Fiji. Talk of "deadly beaches"and "Shark infested waters" is simply toxic for the Tourism Industry, the principal income earner of most Island Countries. Yes, also for the Bahamas whose image has already been tarnished by past and equally stupid programs.

With that in mind, we took it onto ourselves to go talk to the local Authorities and to the Tourism Association. As a consequence, not only will those guys be denied any filming license, but anybody enabling this shoot will have to face serious consequences. Having spread the word, we understand that similar initiatives are being undertaken in the Bahamas.
Enough is enough.

At the same time, Shark Divers have turned down another idiotic request for yet another idiotic Discovery show.

Does that mean that we hate Discovery or that we want to harm those Production Companies?

Certainly not!
Discovery has recently aired some wonderful Shark programs, like Mike deGruys wonderful piece on the research conducted at Osprey Reef, or "Sharkman" where Mike Rutzen experiments with Tonic Immobility. Truly epic programming and they must be commended for it!

So why the garbage?
Wolf's insightful post and the ensuing discussion thread clearly point to the fact that those guys are merely trying to do Business, and that they are merely satisfying the market's demands for ever bigger sensations and ever dumber programs.
And I might add: for ever dumber show hosts! Is absolute ignorance and zero experience a precondition for getting the job? And what is it with those herp guys (one already deceased) that are being unleashed on the Marine environment? Is being bitten in the arse by giant snakes not good enough anymore?

But I'm digressing.
Thing is, what we do is not Entertainment, it is Shark Conservation.
Following the obvious utter failure of the 2007 open Letter to Discovery and their equally obvious disregard for the welfare of Sharks, those who care will have to find other ways of getting their voice heard.

One strategy may be to convince everybody in the Industry to simply follow our example.
After all, it is us the operators who control the locations, opportunities and animals. If we refuse to partake in this stupidity, the buck stops right here and now.
Yes it is cool to be on Discovery and it might also be good money - but in the long term, we not only harm our own reputation, we also contribute to harming the reputation and the well-being of our host Country.

Is that really what we want?
Is that what our clients want?
How does it dovetail with the image of Sharks we are trying to portray?

At the same time, some serious talk with the Authorities of the Countries most affected by this nonsense could well lead to better scrutiny and especially, to stiff sanctions vis-a-vis those operators that enable those shoots.
And finally, the clients should be alerted to shun those operators who obviously put money and short-lived fame ahead of long-term sustainability and Conservation.

Food for Thought.

4 comments:

Shark Diver said...

Food for thought...more like a veritable buffet. Thanks for pointing this out as you have done and kudos once gain for showing industry leadership.

Change on programming begins when the lens hits the water.

DaShark said...

We're all in this together.

I refuse to believe that the Channels cannot treat predatory Sharks in the very same way they have finally learned to treat the terrestrial apex Predators: as iconic, endangered, fascinating and essential elements of their habitats.

It obviously works commercially or they wouldn't be airing those shows - Right?

Fiji would have some wonderful Shark stories to tell, combining huge Sharks with grassroots Conservation and ancestral beliefs, all set against the magical backdrop of the South Pacific - it sure wouldn't take a rocket scientist to weave that into a fascinating narrative.

But alas, all we get is more requests for the same, tired, endlessly re-hashed garbage.
How does that dovetail with the new green image those guys are trying to portray?
Go wonder...

Anal Slut said...

Where's the porn?

DaShark said...

Good question!