Utah aquarium rings in 'Shark Week' with bites of reality

Published August 5, 2013 11:19 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sharks play a vital role in the ecosystem, do not commonly eat humans, and there have been no observed Sharknadoes.

Those are some of the lessons Sandy's Living Planet Aquarium hopes to impart during the Discovery Channel's annual weeklong celebration of "Shark Week." While sharks have gained pop-star status due to intentionally kitschy dramatics — most recently, Syfy's made-for-TV "Sharknado" — it is worth noting that few people are actually injured by the toothy predators. According to the International Shark Attack File, 2012 saw just 80 attacks worldwide, and only seven deaths. Thus, it is relatively safe to hype shark attacks, because there are few people who might take offense, and sharks don't have defamation lawyers.

But the Living Planet Aquarium has the creatures' dorsal fins — er, backs. The only place in Utah where you can actually touch a shark offers a range of activities, games and prizes — including three Discovery backpacks — with the aim of debunking myths perpetuated by movies and TV. Angie Hyde, director of marketing for the aquarium, says you're more likely to be hit by lightning than to be bitten by a shark, and even then, people die from bleeding out, not being eaten.

"They mistake a diver or a surfboard as like a seal, and as soon as they realize that it's not what they want to eat, they swim away," Hyde says.

The Aquarium has even created a live-animal show, "Star Trek: Into Sharkness," to help illustrate sharks' pivotal role in the food chain. Visitors can also watch shark feedings and puppet shows.

(In case this is your first time hearing about the "Shark Week" phenomenon, click to watch this year's promo above. Unless you have a soft spot for seals.)

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper —

Living Planet Aquarium 'Shark Week'

Monday:

11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. • Baby Shark Puppet Show

Noon • Shark Talk

Tuesday:

Noon, 4 p.m. • Shark Talk

1:30 p.m. • Shark feeding

Wednesday:

Noon, 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m. • "Shark Trek: Into Sharkness"

Thursday:

Noon, 4 p.m. • Shark Talk

1:30 p.m. • Shark feeding

Friday:

Noon • Shark Talk

1 p.m., 4 p.m. • Baby Shark Puppet Show

Saturday:

11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m. • "Shark Trek: Into Sharkness"

Noon • Shark Talk

1:30 p.m. • Shark feeding