National Geographic has taken a deep dive look at sharks for the past nine years with its annual “Sharkfest” programming. This 10th year’s schedule will include 30 hours of new programming starting July 10 and continuing through Aug. 7. The lineup can be seen on Disney+, Hulu, ABC and ESPN, National Geographic, Nat Geo WILD and Nat Geo MUNDO.
The shark-oriented schedule starts with “Camo Sharks” debuting at 10 p.m. July 10 on the National Geographic Channel. Shark scientists Dr. Ryan Johnson and Ph.D. candidate Gibbs Kuguru look to capture real-time pigmentation changes to understand how these apex ocean predators manipulate their skin’s dermal cells to activate camouflage. If you miss the first broadcast, “Camo Sharks” will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Aug. 1 on Nat Geo Wild and at 10 p.m. July 16 on Disney XD.
A decade of programming dedicated to one species might seem a little excessive. But, spending so much time with sharks was a no brainer for Janey Han Vissering who is the Senior Vice President, Development and Production for National Geographic.
“I think these are incredibly large creatures that people know still only a little bit about. And every time we go back in to look at new shows, we’re finding new scientists and new work and new technology that allows us to get a little bit more information which makes the basis of our shows which has always been the point,” Han Vesseing says. “And therefore, we’re able to highlight new content, new technology, new ways of showing these sharks every year, which is why we’re so excited about our tenth anniversary this year.”
This year’s lineup includes new original content that dives into details on over 15 different shark species, The offerings feature footage from all over the world, including the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Australia, Hawaii, South Africa, The Maldives, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Florida and more.
This year’s “Sharkfest” features a broad selection of programming. This includes the debut of “Shark Beach with Chris Hemsworth” at 8 p.m. July 13 on ABC. Hemsworth is on a mission to uncover the science of shark behavior and discover how humans and sharks can safely coexist.
There will be kid-friendly programming on Disney XD that includes “Camo Sharks” and “Maui Shark Mystery” at 10 p.m. July 17 on Disney XD.
ESPN is joining in on the fun with the premiere of the ultimate species competition special, “Game of Sharks” (9 p.m. July 11) and “Great White vs. Tiger Shark (10 p.m. July 11).
National Geographic has also partnered with Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS) to encourage diversity and inclusion in the shark sciences field and inspire the next generation of scientists. This collaboration lends MISS experts — such as Candace Fields, a Ph.D. student studying the population dynamics and geographic population structure of large predators; Carlee Jackson, marine biologist, sea turtle conservationist and shark expert; and Jasmin Graham, who specializes in elasmobranch ecology and evolution — as on-screen talent for this year’s “Sharkfest,” as well as consultants for programming and development of shows.
The theory Fields – who studies the population dynamics and geographic population structure of large predators – has come up with to explain the fascination with sharks comes down to humans just trying to understand things they don’t know.
“You can’t understand how an animal like a whale shark can be so massive but eat something that’s basically invisible to the human eye,” Fields says. “How can we have all these species that are so dangerous and what we fear, and yet, the amount of shark/human interaction is so low?
“I think also, it’s now the shift from that kind of intense fear – which was instilled in things like “Jaws” and such – to people being more in tune with the conservation side and wanting to save sharks and protect them because of the impact it has. Sharks equal a healthy ocean and a healthy ocean equals sustained life.”
Dr. Mike Heithaus, the executive dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education (CASE) and professor in the department of biological sciences at Florida International University (FIU). Is another shark expert featured.
He points out that while “Sharkfest” has been turning a spotlight on sharks for a decade, the programming has only scratched the surface in terms of what there is left to learn. Heithaus doesn’t expect the curiosity in regards to sharks to fade.
“People are fascinated by animals that are mysterious, we don’t know well, and frankly that some species we see as very dangerous in an environment that we are not used to,” Heithaus says. “I came from the cornfields of Ohio, but I was still fascinated by sharks and I’m the kid that never grew up.”
“Sharfest” is designed for those like Heithaus who have never grown out of their fascination for sharks.