Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures

Voyage to Kure
expedition goals
The Gray Whale Obstacle Course
America's Underwater Treasures
Return to the Amazon
Sea Ghosts: Belugas
Call of the Killer Whale


Sharks at Risk

Mission and Goals

- To expose major shark myths as being false and dangerous. Many beliefs about sharks are skewed, and misunderstandings will harm their chances of survival and the overall health of our oceans. The truth is that sharks are not mindless predators or sinister man-eaters. And contrary to what many people believe, our oceans are not teeming with sharks.

Jean-Michel, Andre and a great white shark
Jean Michel swims with great whites without the protection of a cage to challenge the myth that they are mindless man-eaters.
Click to enlarge
- To explore sharks as critical factors in the balance of ocean life. Sharks are apex predators, at the top of the food chain. Sharks play an important ecological role, removing the sick and weak from prey populations, maintaining a stable relationship between predator and prey, and keeping other animal populations in check. Without sharks, the food chain as we know it collapses. The effect of killing sharks trickles all the way down to the smallest of creatures in the ocean, and the consequences cannot be predicted or fully understood.

- To show people that sharks are not senseless killers. Although their way of life might seem brutal in our eyes, they represent an evolutionary success story. Sharks eat to survive, and they do not prefer human flesh. In fact, shark "attacks" on humans are shark mistakes - they are acting out against something unfamiliar or simply trying to determine what it is.

- To raise public awareness about brutal modern fishing practices. New and expanding markets for shark fin soup, shark jaw souvenirs and other shark products have decimated entire populations. Because the public views sharks as vicious killers, their loss doesn't evoke much sympathy. In particular, the Ocean Adventures team aims to learn about the impact of longline fishing on Rangiroa, both in the ocean and on land. The loss of sharks mirrors the overfishing of large fish, such as jacks and tuna, which has already upset the balance in the sea.

- To film and observe the behaviors of sharks. We know surprisingly little about shark behavior because studying them in their natural habitat is challenging. Observation is the first step in scientific study, and film is an excellent surveillance tool. The team sought to record the great numbers of sharks found at Rangiroa's Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia and to film the great white face-to-face in open water, without the use of shark cage diving equipment.

- To expose the slaughter of 100 million sharks a year. Are we truly ridding our oceans of a menace? Or is the health of our oceans at stake? Could this slaughter foreshadow the future of sharks on Earth?