|harks have had a bad press, and they don't deserve it. Their image is of vicious, human-hating killers. But in fact, explains marine expert Jean-Michel Cousteau, fewer people are killed by sharks than by bee stings. There are about 100 shark attacks a year resulting in around 12 human deaths. In contrast, humans are responsible for killing more than 100 million sharks each year - 11,000 every hour of every day.
Their numbers are rapidly declining because they are caught for their fins - especially for shark's fin soup - and because overfishing depletes their prey. They are particularly vulnerable since they take many years to mature and give birth to few young at a time. But people have been less keen on conserving them than cuddlier creatures - such as pandas. Perhaps they are put off by sharks' predatory natures, but it is this that makes them particularly important in maintaining the balance of life in the oceans.
Jean-Michel Cousteau - son of Jacques Cousteau, the world-renowned ocean explorer best known for popularizing marine biology - is trying to change this. He has recently been at the heart of two high-profile documentary projects about sharks - one for film and the other for television. He says: 'We hope to reach millions of people, who will see the real beauty, not the fabricated beast. Sharks have far more to fear from us than we do from them. And, unless we curb the killing of these creatures, we will irrevocably lose one of our planet's most magnificent species.'
The film - an IMAX documentary titled Sharks 3-D, produced in collaboration with UNEP and 3D Entertainment - is now showing around the world. Cousteau hosts this 'close encounter with the lions and tigers of the oceans'. Spectacular footage of the world's most endangered sharks shows them to be beautiful, wild and fascinating creatures that have roamed the seas for 400 million years.
For television, Cousteau has dedicated one of his six-hour documentary series - Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Adventures - to them. The series is a family affair: Cousteau's son Fabien and daughter Céline are members of the diving team.
Fabien Cousteau has also developed a shark-shaped submarine - named Troy - designed to let a diver swim with great white sharks and observe them in their natural habitat. He aims to change public perception of great whites and to contribute to shark research, and has another documentary, Mind of a Demon, due to be broadcast in 2006.
|3D Entertainment Ltd|
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