Shark Men, season 1

Series: Shark Men, Season 1

Shark Men, season 1
Shark Men, season 1

After the controversy, drama, self examination, and ultimately very interesting research that came out of the Ocearch expedition to South Africa early in 2012, we had to watch the television show that made Chris Fischer (amongst others) famous for working with white sharks.

Enter Shark Men, a National Geographic series featuring television personality Chris Fischer (who had something to do with getting the funding, or the boat, or both – try to disentangle it here if you’re so inclined) and Dr Michael Domeier, a respected white shark researcher. The researchers fish for white sharks off Guadalupe Island in Mexico, and then lift them out of the water in a specially modified cradle attached to the Ocearch boat. Water is pushed across the shark’s gills while they’re out of the ocean. The team measure and tag the sharks, and take samples for genetic testing. The sharks are released after 15-20 minutes out of the water.

The Ocearch boat also makes a trip to the Shared Offshore Foraging Area, or SOFA, where white sharks are believed to feed. A (giant) squid-rich ecosystem inhabited by sperm whales is found, and Domeier theorises that the sharks subsist on squid while they’re here. I found the two episodes covering the SOFA trip to be fascinating. There’s nothing special demarcating this piece of ocean – just the patterns made by the migrating white sharks, which show evidence that the sharks move between Guadalupe and the SOFA. Domeier believes that their time at Guadalupe is for breeding, and aims to take sperm samples from mature males to verify this theory.

The science is very interesting. During the course of the filming a couple of improvements in the handling of the sharks is made, of which I approved. There is magnificent footage of huge white sharks in crystal clear water. Unfortunately there is also a lot of testosterone-fuelled shouting, posturing, and remarkably inane commentary from a variety of sources. By the end of the series we wanted to watch with the sound off, it was that bad. The only person who comes off well at the end of it all is the captain of the Ocearch vessel and chief angler, Brett McBride, and it seems to be largely because he shuns the limelight and doesn’t say much.

I hate sport fishing. I think it’s pathetic that humans need to prove their mastery of the natural world by shooting or fishing the earth’s most amazingly put together predators. This show is mostly about fishing, and so I found it mostly repugnant. I understand that good television wouldn’t be the expected result from a quiet, respectful treatment of the shark while it’s being brought to the cradle – which leads me to question whether I think that something like this should be televised at all.

If you want the DVDs, get them here. They’ll only ship to the US, so make a plan (mine involved a friend, and a plane). Episode list here.

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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