Shark Week 2019's Monster Mako: Perfect Predator couldn't come at a more vital turning point for the mako shark, filmmaker and naturalist Joe Romeiro explained to PopCulture.com ahead of the Discovery Channel special's premiere Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.
Along with Devon Massyn and Keith Poe, Romeiro took on some major risks during Monster Mako to track down some of the most rare Mako behavior ever captured on camera, but it's all worth it to learn more about these apex predators as overfishing and reduced size limitations have put the species in serious danger.
“This animal is not common, it's rare and is becoming rare because we’re making it this way," he explained. "I don't mean to be totally on a negative, but these animals are really in danger.”
With sport fishing tournaments oftentimes scooping up pregnant female makos and bigger males, the conservationist noted that in his years diving with the makos, there is already a noticeable difference in the population he's seen.
"We're seeing that they're shy; we're seeing that the most bold animals are gone," he noted. "The only thing we ever see as far as shark diving, the majority of the makos are immature baby makos.”
The genetic pool, he explained, is "already in decline," making it more difficult for future generations of mako to reproduce robust offspring. As there are no mako in captivity, Romeiro spelled it out, "If [the population] disappears, it's gone. ... I'm terrified of it."
The best hope for the mako, Romeiro noted, is concerted conservation efforts like those at the Atlantic Shark Institute, as well as a grassroots push for social change.
"Socially, we’re even more connected than we ever were," he explained. "This is a time where we can rally up really quickly, and what used to take 10 years can take 10 minutes. I really believe that.”
This is where Shark Week comes in. If people can simply realize how vital mako are to the ecology of the ocean and fall in love with the predator, Romeiro still has hope for the species.
“We’re super thankful to Discovery to give us the opportunity to highlight them this year, because this year is the year they became endangered," he said. "That conscientiousness is why I love Shark Week the most."
Monster Mako: Perfect Predator airs Thursday, Aug. 1 at 10 p.m. ET as part of Discovery's Shark Week. For more about the Atlantic Shark Institute and how you can help protect the mako, visit its website here.
Photo credit: Mark Conlin/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Image