Submerged realities: shark documentaries at depth

Ferguson, Kathryn (2006) Submerged realities: shark documentaries at depth. Atenea, XXVI (1). pp. 115-129.

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[Extract] Richard Fitzpatrick caught his first Epaulette shark from the Coral Sea when he was eleven years old. He took it home, put it in his aquarium, and then transported the whole thing to school for show and tell. Some twenty years later, he is still playing show and tell with sharks, but to a much larger audience. His work has been seen on, amongst others, the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, the ABC, the BBC, the CBC, and Japan’s NHK and TBS. As both a marine scientist and a director of Digital Dimensions in Townsville Australia, Fitzpatrick has been a subject of several documentaries, has filming credits on a wide range of documentary, corporate, and mainstream film projects, and has, with his business partner Brett Shorthouse, created a number of award-winning nature documentaries. Fitzpatrick has been senior biologist at Manly Oceanworld and Maui Ocean Center, a biologist at the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium, and has spent well over eight thousand hours underwater, a goodly percentage of that time with sharks. His aquarium has grown into a fully-tended aquatic film studio which includes a sixty cubic-metre tank and four thousand-litre tanks. In both studying and filming sharks, he has navigated through the maze of corporate television expectations, and put them to the use of shark research and conservation.1 Fitzpatrick’s argument is straightforward and pragmatic: “very little is known about the basic biology and ecology of tropical sharks” (Fitzpatrick). We need to know more about sharks’ biology, habits, and haunts before we can implement a successful and responsible preservation strategy for these animals and their environments. His assessment of commercial shark fishing is even more succinct: “shark fishing is just—it’s unsustainable” (Fitzpatrick in Brook). Putting premises into practice, Fitzpatrick and Digital Dimensions have forged a unique relationship with Undersea Explorer, an environmentally responsible charter diving operation, that combines scientific research, documentary production, and eco-tourism: a sustainable shark industry in Australia’s Coral Sea.

Item ID: 1431
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0885-6079
Keywords: Richard Fitzpatrick; documentaries; sharks
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Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2007
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2001 Communication and Media Studies @ 0%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology @ 0%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160808 Sociology and Social Studies of Science and Technology @ 0%
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