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This Week, Don't Just Watch Sharks, Save Them

Posted: 08/02/11 12:35 PM ET

This week, more than 30 million Americans will tune in to watch Discovery Channel's Shark Week. It's easy to understand why: Sharks are some of the most amazing, powerful animals in the world. But as you sit transfixed by high-definition images of sharks, keep in mind that sharks aren't the scariest predators in the oceans. Humans are.

Tens of millions of sharks are fished from the ocean every year, mainly for their fins. As a result, some shark populations are crashing, which has devastating consequences for ocean ecosystems. For example, some U.S. hammerhead populations have dropped an alarming 98 percent in recent decades. As apex predators, sharks keep the ocean food web in balance.

If you think watching a shark on TV is cool, try looking one in the eye. Over the past few years I've dived with Caribbean reef sharks in the Bahamas, and more recently with whale sharks in Belize, filming public service announcements with Oceana. I'd love to continue diving with sharks -- but at the rate we're going, Shark Week could become the only way to see these beautiful predators.

Back in 2009 I traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers about shark protection. Our hard work paid off: In January, the Shark Conservation Act, which Oceana and I were campaigning for, was signed into law. The law ensures a prohibition on shark finning in U.S. waters.

While the U.S. is a leader on shark finning, there's a lot more to be done to protect sharks from extinction. For instance, endangered shark species such as scalloped and great hammerhead sharks are allowed to be caught by U.S. fishermen in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Take action for sharks -- tell the U.S. government to protect vulnerable shark species such as tiger, hammerhead and thresher sharks.

If even just a fraction of all Shark Week viewers took action to protect sharks, it would equal millions of people speaking up for the ocean's top predators. We shouldn't be scared of sharks, we should be scared for them.

In 2009, actress January Jones joined Oceana's shark campaign. Watch video, see photos and learn more about why January is scared for sharks.