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Paul de Gelder for GREAT WHITE SERIAL KILLER: SEA OF BLOOD

Paul de Gelder in SEA OF BLOOD l Discovery

By Sarah Musnicky


It's the most wonderful time of the year for shark lovers. "Shark Week" is back on Discovery, with this year's episodes promising to deliver on the action, adventure, and education viewers have come to expect with "Shark Week." There's always something to learn amidst the dramatic edits, and this year fulfills that and more.


For "Shark Week," Creepy Kingdom's Sarah Musnicky chatted with Australian Naval diver and shark conservationist Paul de Gelder. Focusing on his "Shark Week" segment, GREAT WHITE SERIAL KILLER: SEA OF BLOOD, they chatted about how climate change and shifting populations impact shark attacks, combatting misinformation about sharks, and how safe the cages were in SEA OF BLOOD.


One of the things that I noticed during GREAT WHITE SERIAL KILLER: SEA OF BLOOD is that habitats are constantly changing. This particular episode highlights this by examining the incidents in the Sea of Cortez. Are these incidents arising in new areas because of the shifting marine wildlife population?


Paul de Gelder: That’s what I think it is. I think that it is due to the populations of the prey items that the sharks need to feed on. Whether it be commercial fishing wiping out certain areas, bottom trawling destroying coral reefs, which is obviously the home for these foods, but also the changing ocean currents and water temperatures. That's another thing we looked at in the Sydney Harbor shark show, [where] we asked if the warming and changing currents and tides of that area keeping bull sharks in the harbor for a longer period. So, I think you hit it on the head right there. They're going to where their prey is. They're not super complicated animals. They're looking to pup, give birth, feed, and so outside of that, they're just amazing animals to go and be a part of their realm with. 


That actually serves as a great segue. There's a lot of misinformation surrounding sharks and why it is they attack. My industry doesn't help a lot of it in its perpetuation of the giant, scary shark attacking willy-nilly. But as SEA OF BLOOD shows us, shark attacks usually have much simpler answers. In your work advocating for sharks, what is the most challenging part of educating people on these incidents and these behaviors, particularly when emotions run high, as we saw in the fishing village?


Paul de Gelder: I would say it is a term called cognitive dissonance, and that is whereby people have been raised believing something so intrinsic to their values and their lives that they find it almost uncomfortable to change that perception. And for people that have grown up in, say, Florida or North Carolina or Alabama and places like that where they actively go out and hunt for sharks. They have shark fishing competitions, and they really aren't open to understanding the realm of why the sharks are there, that they play an important role. They just see them as a product to go out and have fun, to catch, instead of this beautiful animal that has feelings, that is being tortured every time you stick a hook through its face and drag it around the ocean for an hour. So, trying to change those people's perceptions is probably the hardest thing in our realm.


Courtesy Discovery

I 110% agree. I grew up in the beach cities here, and one of the things that we're always taught is how to get out of a shark encounter should it escalate, as well as their behaviors. It really is that simple, and it's a shame people get freaked out by them. 


That being said, they're a little bit scary. One of the things that popped up for me during the cage experiment in Sea of Blood was what would have happened if the [sharks] had breached the cage in New Zealand. Talk me through that because I was just like, well, he's probably a goner.


Paul de Gelder:  The cages are made so strong that they are durable enough to handle multiple hits from a great white shark. They're not going to be able to break into that cage. In saying that, is this the one-man cage that I was in? 


It's when they are sitting down in the cage, with their back completely defenseless. They can't see anything behind them in the water while in the cage.


Paul de Gelder: Yeah, there's no way a shark's going to be able to breach that cage. So it's more a matter of trying to learn how to be comfortable in it, knowing that you're protected, not accidentally letting your leg fly out one of the holes in the cage, and just knowing that it's there to protect you. It's designed specifically for that. But there is some inherent risk. It's the ocean, as you said. Scary, unpredictable. These are wild animals. They're extremely strong, and so that's why we go and do it and test it out before we give it to anyone else. [laughs] We're like The Expendables. 


What would you like people to take away from GREAT WHITE SERIAL KILLER: SEA OF BLOOD?


Paul de Gelder: Look, I've got five amazing shows this year, but all my friends are doing their own shows. There's going to be such a variety with everything from really in depth scientists doing some great studies to the action, the adventure, and really remote places. I went to one of the most remote places I've ever been to in my life, a small island in a chain of 900 islands called the Solomons. This was one of the fiercest areas of fighting during World War II for the Marines and the Japanese.


To go out there and try and do the first shark survey in an area that had never been done before. How many sharks are there? What shark species are there? How are the Chinese commercial fishing industries there affecting the whole area? And mostly, how is it affecting the indigenous tribes that live on these islands and depend on the ocean to survive? But also because I got to do something I never dreamed of doing, and that was freedive while filming sharks 300 feet away from an active underwater volcano while it was erupting. That's why the show's called THE REAL SHARKANO. I guess that scene was so big in the final cut [that] they were like, we're naming it after that.


It’s brilliant. That’s a good, catchy, grab-you-by-the-face title. 


Paul de Gelder: A lot of edutainment, as I like to call it. We're trying to teach people about sharks but also keep them interested. So there's going to be action, adventure, and science. So thrills and spills. I got to hand-feed a 13-foot Tiger Shark this year. Incredible stuff. We're looking at the bite force mechanics of all these different sharks. We set up this pole underwater with all these higher-speed cameras on it, and then I fed a 13-foot Tiger Shark right in front of the camera. It's so cool.


 


Check out Paul de Gelder in SYDNEY HARBOR: SHARK INVASION and GREAT WHITE SERIAL KILLER: SEA OF BLOOD, now playing on Max.


You can also check him out in DEADLIEST BITE, which premieres Tuesday, July 9, 2024, at 8 PM ET/PT, THE REAL SHARKANO, which premieres Friday, July 12, 2024, at 8 PM ET/PT, and SHARK ATTACK ISLAND, which premieres Friday, July 12, 2024, at 10 PM ET/PT all on Discovery.




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