Beginning July 5, there will be blood in the water as two rival networks launch a week of shark shows. Discovery's venerable Shark Week launches its 28th season, and upstart Nat Geo Wild tries to take a bite out of the competition with its third annual SharkFest, airing at the same time. It's double the fins, double the fun for Selachimorpha fans, but there are only so many hours in a day. What to watch (or record)? We sort it out for you.
The best of Shark Week
"Shark Trek" July 5
Marine biologist Greg Skomal tags sharks to determine their swim patterns, which lead him to a hotspot in the Atlantic off the Florida coast.
"Island of the Mega Shark" July 5
Shark experts Jeff Kurr, Andy Casagrande and Dickie Chivell search for the biggest great white sharks on record in the waters off Guadalupe and Baja California.
"Monster Mako" July 5
Little is known about the fastest of all sharks, so scientists attempt to remedy that by tagging any makos they can find in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Return of the Great White Serial Killer" July 6
Why are shark attacks on the rise? This timely show focuses on Surf Beach, California, where shark bites killed swimmers in 2010 and 2012, in an effort to find some answers.
"Alien Sharks: Close Encounters" July 6
The third installment in the "Alien Sharks" series sends scientist Paul Clerkin into shark territory to find and tag rare and unusual sharks.
"Bride of Jaws" July 7
The prey here is the aptly named Joan of Shark, the largest female great white ever tagged.
"Tiburones: The Sharks of Cuba" July 7
Seventy years ago, the largest great white on record at the time was caught off the coast of Havana. With U.S.-Cuba relations defrosting, researchers from both countries mount a joint expedition to find its mega-size relatives and tag them.
"Ninja Sharks" July 8
A 30-foot monster great white nicknamed Submarine has terrorized South African shores for decades. Is he out there? And can he be stopped?
"Shark Planet" July 9
This special combines new, rare footage of 13 species of sharks to give insight into fascinating hunting, courtship, mating and social behaviors.
"Sharks of the Shadowland" July 10
Divers head to New Zealand to tag the elusive sevengill shark on a mission to discover how the species behaves and hunts, information that could help prevent shark attacks.
"Sharksanity 2" July 11
Highlighting the most toothsome bites in Shark Week videolog, this show asks viewers to rank their favorite viral shark clips.
"Shark Island" July 12
This special investigates an increase in bull shark attacks, why they're occurring and how they can be prevented.
"Shark After Dark"
Airing on five consecutive nights July 5-9, this talk show hosted by filmmaker and actor Eli Roth will feature celebrities and shark experts discussing the programming of the day and what’s ahead.
The best of SharkFest
"Shark Alley" July 5 and July 9
Off the southeastern coast of Africa is Ambush Alley, where the mass migration of sardines is an all-you-can-eat buffet for sharks, and the subject of the feeding frenzy remarkably depicted in this new special.
"United Sharks of America" July 5 and July 9
This countdown of the five most shark attack-prone beaches in the U.S. combines survivor stories with experts weighing in why they occur, which sharks are responsible and what you can do to avoid being bitten.
Nat Geo Wild's other SharkFest shows have aired before, including "World’s Deadliest Sharks," "Shark Kill Zone," "Australia's Deadliest Shark Attacks," "The Whale that Ate Jaws," "Red Sea Jaws" and "When Sharks Attack: Panic in Paradise."
Lurid titles aside, they're not just sharky sensationalism. "Shark encounters captivate us every summer, but sadly the fear mongering and myth spreading overshadow these magnificent creatures and their vital place in the ocean’s ecosystems," says Geoff Daniels, the network's executive vice president and general manager. "The fact is, your chance of getting attacked by a shark in your lifetime is 1 in 11,000,000. You are also 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning than to be killed by a shark. So it turns out that it is safe to go back in the water, as long you've got the facts."
Discovery is emphasizing the ecological aspect as well, partnering with conservation groups Oceana, the Sea Save Foundation and Ghost Fishing, which raises awareness about the disastrous effects abandoned traps and nets have on marine life. Shark Week may be the centerpiece, but it's not the end of the network’s toothsome summer lineup. Discovery will air a weekend of new shark shows in August.
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