From Andy Dehart, Director of Biological Programs in Washington, DC
If you are a shark fan like me, you probably already know that Discovery Channel’s SHARK WEEK is just around the corner! Now that I have the great privilege of having two wonderfully rewarding jobs with the National Aquarium and the Discovery Channel, Shark Week is becoming a year round affair for me.
I have worked for the National Aquarium in numerous capacities – from selling tickets in admissions to my current role at our newly renovated DC venue – for nearly 17 years. Sharks have always been my passion. For me it started when I was only five years old when I got to see a 6 foot long Caribbean reef shark while snorkeling with my father in the Florida Keys. Pardon the pun, but I was hooked and have followed the dream of working with sharks ever since.
Throughout my career I have dabbled in media and when the unfortunate and extremely rare cases of mistaken identity rolled around and a bather or surfer was attacked by a shark, I have been called upon by the media to answer questions about shark attacks. In 2003 I got the chance to work on my first Shark Week show, Sharks Under Glass, about sharks in public aquariums. Last year I was approached by Discovery Channel to sign on as their Shark Advisor, which meant reviewing show and online content, contributing to online content and doing television and print interviews.
For me the Discovery role is a way for me to help get the word out that sharks need our help to survive. I believe that the generation that has grown up watching Shark Week over the past 22 years is more informed and cares more about sharks than the generation raised on Jaws. Ultimately many people will always have an innate fear of sharks, even though there are less than 100 attacks worldwide every year with roughly five per year being fatal. The reality, however, is that sharks have more of a reason to fear humans, then we do to fear them.
I want everyone to love sharks like I do, or at least respect them enough to know that they are not mindless eating machines after human prey. Sharks are critical to the health of the world’s oceans. Some species have decreased by nearly 90% in just the last 20 years. We have to act now to save them. Stay tuned to this blog as I hope to share some of the magical moments I have had with sharks, spread conservation messages, and also share some of the stories of our upcoming show Shark After Dark.