Andy Dehart helps make Shark Week happen — after all, to film an encounter you must first find the animals. As an adviser, he works with producers to locate particular species, lure them in and elicit behaviors — even if it means offering himself as bait.
SD: What was your most dangerous encounter?
Dehart: In my first experience, I needed to create a feeding frenzy with tiger sharks — considered the second-most dangerous shark species — so I laid on a surfboard alongside a fake sea turtle. Tigers are my specialty, so I knew how they were going to react. I wasn’t scared.
SD: Which encounter scared you the most?
Dehart: We were looking to film makos, so we headed 100 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. There in the open water, we were staring at nothing but blue and tons of chum. The depths are so vast, you never know what’s going to rocket toward you. Makos are fairly aggressive: They bump and bite a lot. I was a little relieved when they didn’t.
SD: What about most memorable?
Dehart: For the most part, only submarine crews see six-gill sharks: They live 4,000 feet down, rising to divable depths only in the middle of the night. In 2009 off Seattle, we baited them using spoiled salmon, then watched a live-feed camera. When they’d appear, we’d descend into the murky water, hoping not to land on these impressive 12-footers.
SD: What would you say to Shark Week critics?
Dehart: Every year, we aim for balance. The attack shows rate high — but we also talk about prevention and include many programs about positive encounters. I would also point out how Shark Week excels at keeping sharks front and center in people’s minds.
SD: What’s the best part of working with Shark Week?
Dehart: I get a lot of e-mails and letters from kids who are excited about science. I do everything I can to encourage them — they’re our hope for saving sharks in the future.