Discovery Channel’s beloved Shark Week kicked off last night, Sunday, Aug. 4. Though it’s traditionally a raucous week of scarily sharp-toothed programming -- Discovery’s website even sells it as "a bad week to be a seal" -- Shark Week provides the perfect springboard to raise awareness for the sleek beasts' dwindling populations.
A new public service announcement from Oceana, the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation, features actress January Jones (Mad Men, X-Men: First Class) speaking on behalf of the great white shark. Jones urges Shark Week viewers to be "scared for" these creatures of the deep, so often the butt of Hollywood horrors (see: SyFy's sleeper hit Sharknado).
“Healthy oceans need sharks,” says Jones, an ambassador for Oceana’s shark protection campaigns since 2009. “But great whites are in danger of extinction. Please help before it’s too late.” The new PSA marks Jones’s third for Oceana.
While California has laws banning the catching and selling of great whites, extinction is a heightened concern due to the threat of bycatch, the accidental -- but legal -- capturing of great white pups in fishermen’s gill nets. As a result, scientists estimate that there may be only a few hundred adult great whites living off the West Coast today.
With these figures in mind, Oceana is campaigning to get this population, which studies show is genetically distinct, officially listed as an endangered species under California’s Endangered Species Act; it’s currently a candidate for listing. The organization asks viewers to go to oceana.org/scaredforsharks to sign their petition. Worldwide, great whites are considered a species vulnerable to extinction.
To further strengthen conservation efforts, Discovery Channel and Oceana -- now in its fourth consecutive year as a Shark Week partner -- have teamed with TOMS Shoes. Five dollars from each pair sold of TOMS’s “The Shark Shoe” goes to support Oceana, and that’s in addition to a second pair of TOMS getting donated to a child in need. Visit toms.com/shark-week for more information.