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Shark tale – Summertide

19 May 2024
The 101 on sharks.
shark in water

When Emily’s disappearance in Summertide causes a stir, people are quick to panic and shout “shark”. But Martin is just as quick to shut them down and we’re here to support him with some all-important shark facts.

Sharks are not “mindless eating machines”

Martin’s comment that you’re more likely to be killed by a dog than a shark may seem like nothing more than a bit of humourous, overblown writing but it is, as Martin says, “simple facts”. People are also more likely to be killed by cows, toilets, cars, and bicycles. Of course, we spend way more time with dogs, cars, and toilets than with sharks, and cuddling with sharks is not recommended. We also do not recommend that dogs be killed – Martin was only trying to make a point. But you should bear in mind that when you’re in the water, you’re in a shark’s territory, a point bossy Bruce missed completely. While we’re on the subject of Bruce, can we please LOL at the fact that he has the same name as two shark characters: the mechanical shark used for the movie Jaws and the friendly shark in Finding Nemo. 😂

There are more than 500 species of sharks

We hear “shark”, and we immediately think “great white”, but there are more than 500 species of sharks. The smallest is the dwarf lanternshark – it’s so small it can fit in your hand – and the biggest is a whale shark. These sharks can grow up to 12 metres (sometimes more!) and are super chill. Divers have even been known to swim next to them. South Africa is home to many different species of shark – including one of the world’s largest populations of great whites. South African waters are also home to dusky sharks, bronze whalers, ragged-tooth sharks, sevengills, whale sharks, shysharks, the aptly named pyjama shark – a type of catshark that earns its nickname thanks to its pyjama-like stripes – and many more. 🦈

Sharks are important

As apex predators, sharks help maintain a healthy balance in oceanic ecosystems. They eat weak and sick species, distribute essential nutrients by moving between deep and shallow waters, and prey on those below them in the food chain. Without this balancing check, other predators would gobble up herbivorous fish. These latter species feed on algae on reef systems, keeping those healthy in their turn in that great circle we call life. If this circle is disrupted, the ecosystem could collapse, impacting not only marine life but humans too, as fisheries and tourist destinations would close. Without sharks, there’d also be fewer entertaining shark movies like The Meg, Meg 2: The Trench, Deep Blue Sea, the Jaws sequels, and all the Sharknado movies. 🌊

Shark movies should be enjoyed, not believed

Movies and especially sensational news headlines have exacerbated our fear of sharks. The most obvious movie case is Jaws, the Steven Spielberg blockbuster based on the book by Peter Benchley. It was so good it became even more difficult for sharks to shake their bad reputation. Both Benchley and Spielberg have regretted the role Jaws has played in villainising sharks to the extent that Benchley became a major advocate for shark conservation. In 2015, he even had a shark named after him: the ninja lanternshark’s scientific name is Etmopterus benchleyi

It’s also important to note that while Jaws gave sharks a bad name, it did not contribute to declining populations. That’s down to overfishing and illegal fishing – both of which we’re seeing play out in Summertide. When it comes to the movies, as long as you can remain respectful and informed about sharks, you can enjoy the made-up stories. Luckily, most of these movies are so entertainingly preposterous, that if you believe them, you probably believe in unicorns too. 🦄

Sharks are smart, curious, and can be big and bitey

To be clear, sharks can be dangerous. Species like great whites, tiger sharks, and oceanic whitetips are not your cuddle buddies. Practice caution when swimming in the ocean. Check for lifeguards, avoid the water at dawn and dusk, obey signs and beach closures, don’t wear shiny jewellery or bright colours in the water, don't swim with open cuts or wounds, and avoid areas with schools of fish or seal colonies. If you spot a shark while in the water, leave slowly and calmly – no splashing around, this will only incite its curiosity. If you are attacked, go berserk. Smack it in the eyes and gills. If you have something you can use as a weapon (like a surfboard or diving gear), use it. 👊

Sharks “are friends not food”

Yes Hannes, shark finning is banned in South Africa, and we don’t think Wes and Yolande would approve of what you’re doing. But his moral conundrum has certainly made him one of the most interesting characters on the show! Shark finning is the practice of cutting off a shark’s fin and then throwing the shark back into the water where it dies a slow and painful death. Shark fins have been used for centuries in soup and traditional Chinese medicine, but its skyrocketing demand and the ghastly and illegal means of sourcing fins has created another tragic plight for this threatened species. 💙

Will Martin and Amanda be able to protect the sharks? Will Hannes continue his fishy dealings? How will this Summertide shark tale play out? Keep watching to find out, every Sunday at 18:00 on M-Net channel 101. If you miss any episodes, you can catch up on DStv Stream.