Nat Geo WILD: Challenging ‘Sharkist’ Stereotypes

By Mark Addison, shark expert, logistics adviser and “human bait” on Shark Attack Experiment LIVE:

This project has been a great opportunity for the team to investigate some often held misconceptions about sharks and shark attacks. In a year which has seen an increase in fatalities from shark bites it could not have come at a better time. The opportunity to separate fact from fiction, on an international platform such as this show, is a great privilege and one that is very close to my heart. The message I personally hold and espouse with regard to sharks is this: I don’t believe that any shark is a bad shark and I believe that we need to give sharks a chance.

Mark Addison swimming with a tiger shark. Photo courtesy Mark Addison.

At one level most of what we believe about sharks is more myth than fact, and it is this myth that is driving a species to extinction, because most people believe that the only good shark is a dead one—and/or in a soup bowl! Apathy is the other level that sees this species face persecution from some and silence from the rest. We have to work hard to turn this tide and generate knowledge, understanding, and engender a passion that galvanizes these people into action—and not just for sharks but for the planet.

There is no doubt that some quarters will castigate this show for what we have done and the perceived risks the girls went to while making their points, and others will find some other nuance that irritates them, but there is no doubt that they will want to know the outcome! I see this project as kick-starting the discussion and challenging the stereotypes.

I really want this show to be a game changer!


Mark has 20 years of experience in scientific and conservation projects. His company, Blue Wilderness, based in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, specializes in providing underwater logistics for film companies and the scientific community.
Learn more about Mark Addison and his work with sharks.

Alison Walsh is Director, Digital Media, for National Geographic Channels. She loves history, space, cats, and the Oxford comma.
  • J.J.

    I feel like I must share my viewpoint here. I am a great admirer of sharks- of all wildlife really- and although I appreciate every effort made to improve their tarnished image, I don´t think it’s being done the right way.
    You say that you don´t believe any shark is a bad one. I agree and understand what you’re trying to say. But the thing is, nature is too complex to see it in terms of black and white- or good and bad. There are shades of grey. Just because sharks are not mindless man-eating machines, it doesn´t mean they are nice and friendly. This sort of experiment, in which people are exposed to umpredictable and potentially deadly predators, is an accident waiting to happen, and when it happens, it will be bad for sharks.
    Painting a wild animal as a saint is as bad as painting it as a demon. What we really need to do, is to change the limited perception we humans have of nature. Sharks- like wolves, like tigers- are a force of nature, and like any force of nature, they are beautiful and dangerous at the same time. They need to be respected. If we fail to accept the darker side of nature- the side that can hurt us- we’re failing to accept every aspect of it, and then, how can we really understand it? How can we protect something we really don´t understand?

    It is about time we learn to respect creatures for what they are, and not for what we want them to be.

  • Mila Ch

    I agree 100% with You J.J. That is exactly what I think about nature and animals. Letting unexperianced divers into water with blood atracted sharks is another issue! Why are we giving them oportunity to become our enemies. If we develope some understanding of the nature of wild animals and how they are dangerous to us(after all these are just animals) there will be less accidents and less people hating and hunting them.

  • paty valdez

    I think is great that you doing for this amaizing ‘machine marine’.

  • Sharon Ball

    Agree entirely with you J.J. Perhaps, they are trying to take a step towards changing people’s attitudes to sharks, to help prevent the mass slaughter of sharks every year for their fins. No other animal on this planet is killed on quite the same scale as sharks.

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