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An antidote to Shark Week sensationalism

1st July 2016

Tourists swim with Carribean reef sharks at Bimini Island in the Bahmas. Photo by Shin Arunrugstichai

Tourists swim with Carribean reef sharks at Bimini Island in the Bahmas. Photo by Shin Arunrugstichai

Tourists swim with Carribean reef sharks at Bimini Island in the Bahmas. Photo by Shin Arunrugstichai

It’s the last week of June and that means one thing in the shark world: Discovery Shark Week. Most shark scientists have mixed feelings about the show; it is a good thing that sharks are in the public eye, but sensationalist programmes that only show the fearsome side of sharks often do more damage than good.

Dr Mahmood Shivji of the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Centre in Florida is hoping to create a more balanced impression by sharing some exciting science in favour of sharks. In a recent story published in Forbes Magazine, Shivji highlighted some of the work his lab is doing into the potential of using research into shark genetics to advance human medical science. Sharks have incredible genetic adaptations that make them resilient to disease and he believes that by understanding this, we may discover ways to combat a number of prolific human diseases including cancer.

“It would be brilliant if they (Shark Week) could spend some time covering these other very interesting aspects of sharks, which would then hopefully increase public awareness about the need to better appreciate and conserve sharks,” Shivji explained in the article.