Daily Planet’s Ziya Tong And Dan Riskin Talk Shark Week

Everyone’s favorite week in summer, Shark Week, is back on Discovery Canada, airing June 26th through July 3rd. And there’s also another reason to celebrate: it’s Canadian Shark Week on Daily Planet June 27th to July 1st. Daily Planet co-hosts Ziya Tong and Dan Riskin offer a sneak peek into this most feared (and anticipated) shark-centric programming.

CraveOnline: What can viewers expect from this installment of Shark Week?

Ziya Tong: I’m a shark lover and have been following Shark Week for years, and I have to say, this year you’re going to see stories that will make your jaw drop. For one, we go behind the scenes with a man who’s basically like a “shark whisperer.” He rescued some sharks a few years ago by pulling fishhooks out of their jaws. Since that time, it appears that they’ve befriended him! They follow him around, go up and nuzzle him, and these are BIG sharks! So that’s one terrific story. We also love checking out unique science; stuff that you can learn about the world just by studying sharks. One of our stories features a researcher who’s looking into why it is that sharks can regrow their teeth. Based on what he’s discovering, maybe one-day hockey players around the world will rejoice as science will uncover a way for us to grow our teeth back!

Why do you think people are so fascinated by sharks?

Ziya: I think it’s because we know they can kick our butts. Let’s face it, on land, we rule the show. Human beings are armed to the teeth, and today there isn’t a single terrestrial animal that we can’t stop. In the water, however, it’s a whole other story. Sharks are armed with their teeth, and we are far more helpless in their domain. If T-Rexes were alive today, I’m sure there would be a T-Rex week. We are fascinated by what we fear, and sharks are a wonderful and humbling reminder that we are not the most powerful animals on earth. And I’ve gotta be honest, that makes me love them even more.

How has Shark Week changed and evolved since it began to now?

Dan Riskin: Discovery Canada’s first Shark Week aired 21 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. For one, scientists have made huge advances in our understanding of shark behavior, biomechanics, reproductive biology, and ecology. That’s thanks in large part to new technologies, like satellite tags, remote underwater cameras, and now drones, that are giving us a new perspective on the way these magnificent creatures live their lives.

Second, shark numbers have plummeted. Many species have populations smaller than 1% of their original sizes. Some sharks are hunted directly by humans, others are caught as by-catch in other fisheries, and still others suffer from water pollution, the global degradation of the oceans – especially reefs, and from climate change. Sharks, in a lot of ways, have become canaries in the coal-mine – flagship species that drive home how fragile our oceans are.

Third, people’s overall attitudes about sharks have changed in the last two decades. Once vilified and feared, sharks have become the beloved ambassadors of the deep. Most of us would still think twice before getting in the water with one, but today just about everyone knows how important sharks are to the health of our oceans.

Shark Week was once all about getting a good scare from a big predator, but it’s changed in the last 21 years, to become a vehicle for education, so more people can get behind the conservation of these wonderful creatures.

What can viewers expect on Daily Planet next season?

Dan: In the five years I’ve been at Daily Planet we’ve been continually pushing ourselves to bring more science, more adventure, and higher stakes than ever before. Take crash tests, for example. Those have always been dynamic, but the tech used to follow them has been changing as fast as the cars themselves. We can put high-speed cameras everywhere now, and we have telemetry from everywhere in the vehicle, including the insides of the crash test dummies. Well now, the crashes are going to put that equipment to the ultimate test. Imagine a corkscrew collision, where the car rolls over the in the air before landing on its roof. These haven’t been performed in a controlled setting before, and Daily Planet will be there when Swiss researchers use these crashes to test the safety of soft-top convertibles. And that’s just one story we have this fall. One of literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. It’s going to be a great season. We’re pumped. But let’s not all get ahead of ourselves. We need to survive Shark Week first!