Thursday, June 12, 2008

2008 increase in shark sightings-perfect timing with film debut

Island of the Great White Shark set to launch aquarium’s Beyond the Boardwalk summer event series

Irvine, California, June 11, 2008 – As people on both the west and east coasts prepare to beat the heat and high gas prices by vacationing at their nearby beaches, a series of shark sightings has raised the specter of a possible “summer of the shark.” From Martha’s Vineyard to the shores of California and Mexico, large sharks – in many cases, the infamous great white shark – have been spotted. Coincidentally, the National Aquarium in Baltimore is kicking off Beyond the Boardwalk, its summertime event series, with a screening on Tuesday, June 18th of a new shark documentary, Island of the Great White Shark. The film is unique in the shark film genre in its attempt to set the record straight regarding these mysterious and often-feared animals.

The film represents a three-year effort by filmmaker Richard Theiss to provide the first comprehensive look at a precarious population of great white sharks found at the remote Mexican island of Isla Guadalupe, Baja. The film explores many of the issues surrounding these highly misunderstood animals, chronicles the efforts of dedicated shark researchers to study and protect them, and illustrates the destructive and inhumane practices imposed upon sharks by the commercial shark fishing industry. Estimates run from 40 million to as high as 100 million sharks being killed each year either for their fins or as accidental by-catch.

“These are absolutely magnificent creatures living on a razor’s edge of possible extinction. And there are some very dedicated people working tirelessly to prevent that. This is a story that needed to be told,” says Richard Theiss, RTSea Productions, executive producer and cinematographer.

On Sunday, June 1st, a chartered fishing boat sighted a 16-foot great white shark off the Vineyard Sound at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Another shark had reportedly been seen in the same area a month earlier. In Southern California, there have been as many as eight sightings of great white sharks since March, and on April 25th, a great white shark off Solana Beach in San Diego fatally bit a swimmer. Several shark attacks have also occurred recently off the Pacific coast of Mexico. Does this mean that ocean goers are facing a summer full of sharks? Not necessarily, according to Theiss.

“This increase in activity has some people speculating that it’s due to global warming, changing ocean currents, or movements among the animals these sharks prey upon. But scientists need a lot more data before they will make any definitive statements and, in the end, it could all just be a statistical anomaly. It’s happened before,” said Theiss. “What’s still true is that you have a greater chance of being killed by a pig, a donkey, or even a soda vending machine, than by a shark.”

“Ocean health begins at home” is the theme for this year’s Beyond the Boardwalk event series, running from June 18th through June 28th. This annual event will feature a variety of exciting and interactive programs, games and stories to help adults and children discover ways to protect and restore our waterways for the thousands of animals that call them home. Advanced reservations are required for the screening of Island of the Great White Shark. For ticket information, call the National Aquarium in Baltimore at 410-427-3474.

About RTSea Productions
RTSea Productions, based in Irvine, California,, is dedicated to capturing nature and underwater images that will impress and move viewers to preserve and protect our precious natural resources – above and below the waves. RTSea has provided video and still production services for National Geographic, PBS, InMER, Aquarium of the Pacific, and others.

About The National Aquarium in Baltimore
The National Aquarium in Baltimore a non-profit organization, is Maryland's most exciting and popular cultural attraction, as well as one of the region's leading conservation and education resources, hosting more than 1.6 million visitors per year. The Aquarium's mission is to connect people with aquatic life in order to create a better world for both. It is dedicated to education and conservation through more than a dozen programs that serve the environment and the community.

Richard Theiss, Executive Producer
RTSea Productions
Digital Images/B-Roll Available Upon Request