It’s Shark Week this week. For many, that may simply mean watching seven days of Discovery Channel programming dedicated to these ferocious creatures. For others, it may just be a chance to watch a live broadcast from inside a shark tank (watch during feeding time), or maybe it means getting a chance to finesse “shark week” into a quippy tweet, like this:
It’s shark week so I’m taking some lawyers to lunch. RT
— Funny One Liners (@funnyoneliners) August 15, 2012
But for New Englanders, Shark Week strikes a whole new chord. Here, “Shark Week” is more like “Shark Season” and instead of Discovery Channel programming we watch news broadcasts of real shark sightings on our beaches. (Update at 5 p.m.: There was another shark sighting off of Wellfleet earlier.) If you’re a beach-goer, that’s bad news. But if you’re National Geographic photographer and New England native Brian Skerry, it’s great news.
Last March, Skerry teamed up with the Conservation Law Foundation to form the New England Ocean Odyssey, an organization dedicated to exploring how the vitality of the Gulf of Maine ecosystem is being affected by pollution, overfishing, coastal habitat destruction and various other factors.
Here’s the mission of the five-year-long project, according to the Odyssey’s website:
Through Skerry’s exclusive photographs and first-hand accounts of his diving expeditions, the New England Ocean Odyssey will provide a never-before-seen view of the amazing riches of New England’s ocean and bring attention to the very real issues facing it.
Skerry’s 35 years of ocean photography have inspired him to be an outspoken advocate of shark conservation. But that advocacy isn’t just about the well-being of sharks — it’s about the ocean’s ecosystem.
“Remove the predators and the whole ecosystem begins to crash like a house of cards,” Skerry says in an interview with The Boston Globe. “As the sharks disappear, the predator-prey balance dramatically shifts, and the health of our oceans declines.”
Skerry hopes that over time people will give shark conservation the attention it deserves, and that eventually sharks won’t be as vilified as they have been in the past.
“I still think there’s a big part of the population that has a lot of misinformation about sharks,” Skerry says in an interview with CLF. “But I think it’s beginning to change a little bit. As good information about sharks permeates popular culture things may start to change.”
That good information might as well start with the beautiful pictures Skerry has taken throughout the summer diving in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Check out the slideshow above to see Skerry’s work.