i Editor's Letter: Get ready for the apex of this year’s TV programmes


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The Independent Online

Something a bit different today from the politics dominating this week. The piece of television I’m looking forward to more than any other this year is the BBC’s new wildlife blockbuster Shark. As well as being compelling entertainment, this series from the Natural History Unit will be truly important TV, the impact of which could be felt for years to come.

Few creatures are more misunderstood. Forty years after the release of Jaws, the BBC’s Shark aspires to nothing less than transforming the outdated image of them as mindless killers that patrol the depths. Of course, sharks are the oceans’ elite hunters, with 400 million years of evolution. But only a dozen of the 500 species have posed a threat to humans. The new series will, I hope, showcase their staggering diversity.

Why does all this matter? Well, we’re killing about 11,000 sharks an hour, either for the soup trade in Asia or as fishing bycatch. That’s 100 million sharks a year. I like surfing and ocean swimming, but shark-free waters would be terrible news. Marine ecosystems would be devastated, with mid-ranking predators proliferating out of control and unhealthy gene pools no longer culled.

I am biased, I admit. In November, I wrote of my own dips with sharks: free-diving with bull, great hammerhead, tiger and about 10 other species. If a halfwit like me can hang (fairly) calmly in the water near these apex predators, there must be much more to them than popular culture allows.

The series airs in May – nearer the time, we’ll have some stunning visuals and the inside track on filming sharks up close.


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