Andy Casagrande is a wildlife cameraman who has worked on 40 different Shark Week specials over the past 15 years. As someone who jokes that he’s more afraid of people than he is of sharks, he’s got a lot to say about this misunderstood underwater predator.
Was it always your dream to become a wildlife cameraman?
When I was young, you know, I kind of became a wildlife cameraman by mistake. Initially I wanted to become a shark scientist and become a shark – basically only study sharks. But one thing led to another. So I started in research, but then Discovery Channel and the BBC and these big networks started to come down to make films about the great white sharks and the research that we were doing. And I just happened to be there and met a producer who wanted to hire me as a cameraman instead of just for research, but also for television. So it was really just – you know, I had never planned to be a wildlife cameraman, it just came from my passion for wanting to learn more about sharks.
What do you hope to accomplish with your films?
I hope to inspire people to care about sharks, to learn more about them. You know what – it seems like there’s two types of people in this world: people that love sharks and people that hate sharks. So I would also like to inspire people that don’t like sharks to try to see them for the majestic, amazing predators that they are, and that they’re valuable to the ecosystems, especially on this planet that’s primarily made of ocean. So basically it’s just to inspire people that may never get the opportunity to see the shark for themselves in the wild. Maybe they can go to a zoo or aquarium or something like that, yes, but to actually see a wild great white shark is quite an amazing experience. So to be able to capture it with the best camera technologies available, it’s cool to allow others to vicariously experience that. Because if sharks are decimated, and if sharks go extinct, or the majority of the population does, then the only evidence that we’ll have to show future generations will be the video data that we are collecting now, or the cinema science that we are trying to portray on Shark Week.
Do you have a message to share with people who are afraid of sharks?
Yes, I think the basic message is they have to just understand that sharks live in the oceans and they’re predators that need to hunt things to survive. And to be honest, if sharks were malicious animals and evil animals, and they were actively trying to hunt and kill people, they would be doing it every single day, because there are thousands and thousands of people in the water every day. Humans are very slow compared to other prey that sharks eat, like dolphins and seals and things like that. The reality is that if you choose to surf in the ocean or swim in the ocean, you have to expect that a great white shark lives there, or a tiger shark lives there. So it’s just a reality, and I think for anyone that is not willing to take the risk or wants to take the risk, there’s always a swimming pool somewhere close by.
In Asia, there’s a tradition of eating shark fin at celebratory events. What do you think of that?
I think it’s quite interesting, because there’s obviously a famous Chinese basketball player, Yao Ming, who started doing campaigns that were speaking out against shark fin soup. And I think part of the story was that many people were eating shark fin soup and not realising how horrible the practice of catching and killing the shark and cutting its fins off, and throwing the shark back when it’s still alive. I think it’s okay to have sustainable harvest of sharks, if you’re going to catch the entire animal and eat the entire animal in order to protect the species. But I think people need to be educated that sharks can’t reproduce very quickly, not like other fish stocks. They have a limited time frame when they’re able to actually get to a reproductive stage and then limited offspring. And then I think – you know there are sustainable ways to still maintain people’s culture, but not to the demise of a species or dozens of species.
Andy Casagrande will be appearing in two Shark Week specials this year. Catch Casagrande and the rest of Shark Week on Discovery Channel starting Monday, June 27. Get the schedule here. Follow Discovery Channel Asia on snapchat (@discoverysea) for more underwater fun and trivia.