Abandoned Waters

COVID-19 led to a global lockdown, and the lack of human activity in the oceans has caused the usually cautious large great white sharks in the Neptune Islands of Australia to come closer to the surface than they normally do. Shark experts try to get up close and personal with the formerly shy giants currently taking advantage of the quiet waters to reclaim the sea.           

The Neptune Islands are a tourist cage diving spot where thousands of people visit every year to dive with great white sharks. Pre pandemic: up to four male great whites a day was a common occurrence. The male population outnumbered the females 3 to 1 in this area.           

Marine ecologist Dr. Charlie Huveneers and Dr. Lauren Meyer join veteran cage diving experts Andrew and Rodney Fox to explore the effect the lack of human interruption has had on the local great white shark population. With a decent amount of sharks at hand and the current pandemic restrictions limiting human interaction, the researchers have a perfect opportunity to test new shark deterrents. Despite the ban on beaches and swimming, shark attacks in Australia have spiked. Five people were killed in six months. They tested a device that emits an electrical field designed to disturb a shark’s nervous system. When turned on not a single shark was able to get close enough to take the bait and when off the bait was gone in seconds.           

During their tests they observed more than double the average population of female great whites, and more sharks altogether than is normal for the area. We are in an unprecedented and extraordinary time in history right now. The COVID EFFECT is a once in a lifetime opportunity to view the oceans like never before. This is evidence that great white sharks prefer a quieter ocean away from humans, like most animals would also prefer. 


NBA star Shaquille O’Neal is back for more. Shaq brings his friends Dude Perfect and Mark Rober to find the perfect predatory attack. Mr. O’Neal hosted Shark Week in 2018. (cringe) Lots of the word “nope” and the running gag about a very large man in a custom wetsuit who wouldn’t do anything he was supposed to for Shark Week. This time the big man didn’t even pretend. Shaq went to the Georgia Aquarium and sent his friends to dive in Florida and the Bahamas.           

I learned something tonight. I had no clue who Dude Perfect was, I thought it was a wrestler name or something, turns out Dude Perfect is five friends who have a You Tube channel and are sports fanatics. (that would explain why I didn’t know. Go sports!) Dude perfect are Cody, Cory, Coby, Garrett and Tyler and they join Dr. Neil Hammerschlag in Florida to watch him tag bull sharks and to play chumball. Though a number was not given, the narrator said it was the largest bull shark swarm ever recorded. Mark Rober is an ex NASA engineer and inventor.  Mr. Rober built his own shark cage to be at the center of a Caribbean reef shark feeding frenzy with 30 sharks. Shaq stays at the Georgia Aquarium with Dr. Tristan Guttridge and resumes his fear of sharks even though he is with the least dangerous of all the different 440 species of sharks. He wades with zebra sharks before snorkeling with whale sharks. Again he ended up loving it.           

I find celebrity shark dives pointless. The point at the beginning of this show was supposed to be finding the perfect predatory attack, it got lost somewhere along the way and completely forgotten. I get that these people have the means to get shark awareness and conservation out to millions of their viewers and fans, but you could put just a little effort into making the episodes informative too. Inspire these people to love sharks and they will do the same for others. 

Jaws Awakens           

The search for the largest male great white shark in the world. Chris Fallows, Jeff Kurr, and Dickie Chivell go to New Zealand to find Phred. A male great white last seen in 2015 at 18 feet long. Named after the scientist who first saw him in 2009 Phred Dobbins.           

Male great white sharks average at about 13 feet long. They are smaller than the females. In the early 20th century male great white sharks longer than 20 feet were very common until the 1970’s and 1980’s when great white sharks were hunted nearly to extinction. This species takes two years to reproduce and we are unaware of how many babies are born at one time. Great whites are 3 feet long at birth and grow six to ten inches per year. It takes a lifetime to get to 20 feet for these sharks. With the problem of shark finning and over fishing of all the oceans of the world we may never see the big great whites ever again.           

Great white sharks used to be thought of as solitary predators, but recent research has proven they have a complex social structure, even familial bonds, they can hunt in packs and the smaller sharks give way to the larger giving them the prey rather than becoming it. New Zealand seems to be the home of many very large males and Phred was found, and identified by the markings on his dorsal fin, measuring in at 19.5 feet long. 

COVID-19 has changed so much more than just our lives and luxuries. It has given a chance to see just how big a difference humans make in the world around us from improved air and water quality to reduced seismic noise. The damage we do to our own planet and the way nature has enjoyed our lack of presence. 

Sylvia Papineau is an Arcade resident and self-proclaimed Shark Week ‘finatic.’ Watch All WNY all week for her take on Shark Week 2020 specials. And share our Shark Week features on social media with the tag #AllWNYSharkWeek for a chance to win an All WNY Shark Week mask.

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