Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

‘Express’ movie explores what makes tiger sharks tick

 
 
Harvey films his subject.
Harvey films his subject.
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Sharknado has come and gone. Shark Week, too. But marine conservationist Guy Harvey is still focused on the predators.

Harvey and Emmy-award winning co-producer George Schellenger will screen their five-year ocean expedition, Tiger Shark Expre ss, Wednesday at Broward College as part of FLIFF.

The documentary is an inside look at the migrating patterns of tiger sharks across the Caribbean from Bermuda to Puerto Rico.

Harvey, a marine expert who founded the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, a center dedicated to ocean conservation, has experience with sharks. But when he first started diving with them, he was scared.

“They have a big mouth,” Harvey said. “They have teeth that are made to cut open.”

Harvey’s fears were laid to rest once he started documenting their patterns. His underwater equipment helped.

“I like having a big camera between me and them,” he said. “They can be over inquisitive. They will mouth objects to see what they’re made of.”

Harvey and a team of experts from around the country tagged and tracked the migration of three dozen tiger sharks throughout a calendar year. Among the discoveries was their underwater odometer count: 10,000 miles.

Some of the fish were hunted. The team discovered hooks, missing fins, scars and even a bullet hole in one of the sharks. Amazingly, they kept going.

“These are very tough animals,” Harvey said. “They’re obviously used to getting into rough spots.”

He added that tiger sharks act as the ocean’s garbage collectors.

“They can take on anything that’s dead: dead fish, sea birds,” he explained. “They’re not really actual predators as such. They clean up quite a bit and are very good at it.”

In 2011, Harvey and the team took years of data to the Bahamian government in order to change a fishing law aimed at further commercial exploitation of tiger sharks. Later that year the government banned the targeting, selling and catching of sharks within Bahamas’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone, United Nations protected waters that stretch around the country’s coastline. In other words, sharks can roam free.

“It shows the value of the long-term research work,” Harvey said. “People have a greater appreciation for the longevity of these animals.”

Harvey can attest to the fact that learning about sharks can change perspectives.

“My personal ideas about them were completely reversed,” he said.

Anthony Cave

Tiger Shark Express will be screened as part of the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival in Bailey Hall at Broward College’s Davie campus 7 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets: $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. FLIFF.com, 954-760-9898.

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