Shark Week is a ratings bonanza for the Discovery Channel. Huge numbers of views turn into learn a little information about sharks while at the same time watching amazing video of sharks doing what sharks naturally do — behaving like a top predator.
However, communications researchers with the UNC Chapel Hill say all that footage of sharks attacking and eating can be misleading.
Suzannah Evans and Jessica Gall Myrick co-authored a study of people’s responses to Shark Week footage. Their findings show viewers assume they were more likely to be attacked by a shark than they really are.
Evans says sharks are necessary to balance the ocean ecosystem but irresponsible fishing and other hazards threaten the creatures.
“Without a supportive public, you can’t get legislatures and fishery managers to make responsible choices for ocean management,” says Evans. “And when the public is told the ocean is a dangerous and scary place, it makes building public support to protect sharks even more difficult.”
Evans admits recent news stories about sharks biting swimmers off the North Carolina coast only add to the public’s concern.
Dr. F. Joel Fodrie, Joint Assistant Professor of Marine Sciences at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences talked with North Carolina Science Now about the recent shark bites along the North Carolina coast and how swimmers can stay safe. Watch the video above to see the interview and find additional information about sharks in North Carolina by visiting NC Sea Grant.