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Exploring sharks, after dark

Published July 31, 2009

From Andy Dehart, Director of Biological Programs at the National Aquarium, DC

Shark Week 2009 kicks off this Sunday at 9:00 EST on Discovery Channel! I am wrapping up a frenzied media tour that Andy Shark after Darkhas enabled me to talk to  television networks, radio stations, and newspapers around the country about how important sharks are to our oceans and the threats they face, as well as the Shark Conservation Act of 2009. Tonight we will be talking with Larry King live in Los Angeles to dispel many of the myths surrounding sharks and shark attacks. Throughout the next week I will be on the CBS Early show which will be covering Shark Week every day.

One of the questions I am often asked throughout these interviews is, what is my favorite experience with sharks. In all honesty, every encounter I have had with sharks has been incredibly special to me. I have had the good fortune to be able to dive with over 40 species of sharks in my career and each experience has been unique. My hope is that all of these species will be around for future generations to enjoy as I have.

As you've been reading, I am a co-host for one of this year’s Shark Week premiers, “Shark After Dark”, which airs Thursday August 6 at 9pm. I have to say many of the dives for this show were indeed some of my favorite. We filmed in five locations around the world and got to experience what sharks do when the sun goes down. A particular highlight for me was getting to dive with six gill sharks in Seattle. The bluntnose six gill shark is a deep water shark species that can grow to a length of 18 feet. These animals spend the day in deep waters ranging from 600 feet to 6,000 feet and most encounters with this animal have been from a submarine.

For Shark After Dark, however, we were able to dive with these beautiful sharks in only 60 feet of water in the Puget Sound right in downtown Seattle. We were even lucky enough to have a 2’ long baby swim through the cage affirming that this area is indeed a pupping ground for this species. Due to the depth that they live, we know very little about this species, but there is concern that these sharks are heavily contaminated with various pollutants that run off into the Sound. This reinforces our need to not only save shark species, but also protect the fragile ecosystems and watersheds that they live and breed in.

Tune in this Thursday to hear more about the lives of sharks, after dark!

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