‘Shark Week’ Promo: Discovery Hoaxed Viral Video Of Lake Ontario Shark

A video of a shark in Lake Ontario has proved to be a hoax, part of a viral marketing campaign for Discovery Channel’s popular Shark Week programming.

The video, which appeared to be shot with a camera phone, led to mainstream news coverage and even government warnings about the lake, io9 reports. Uploaded to YouTube by “Fisher86,” the footage purported to show a bull shark swimming off of Lake Ontario’s Wolfe Island.

A week after the footage was released, Discovery issued a news release in which it admitted the footage was fake, released as part of a promo for Shark Week:

“Discovery wants to quell the concerns of Canadians everywhere and reveal that the widely-circulated video of a shark swimming in Lake Ontario is, in fact, not a real shark. The video of the incredibly life-like prosthetic model shark is the first stage of a multi-level marketing campaign tied to the channel’s iconic summer event, Shark Week.”

Paul Lewis, Discovery’s president and general manager, said that concerns in Wolfe Island convinced him the responsible call was to cut the campaign short, The National Post reports. “It’s unfortunate that some people took what we did so serious,”Lewis said, adding “If we upset anybody, of course I apologize for that. It would be totally counterproductive for us to go out there and upset and disturb our audience.”

Shark Week is no stranger to criticism. As The Inquisitr previously reported, last year’s Shark Week kicked off with a “mockumentary” that focused on the possible existence of a megalodon shark, which garnered heavy criticism for the network. Discovery even hired actors who pretended to be scientists for the special.

Shark scientist David Shiffman was critical of Shark Week coverage beyond the megalodon mockumentary, calling the factual nature of the other programs into question:

While a lot of negative attention has rightfully focused on “Megalodon: the monster lives,” much of the rest of Shark Week 2013 was also troubling ( see my full breakdown in Wired). One particularly nonsensical documentary was “Sharkpocalypse,” a title so bad that the hosts mocked it during the show. The content wasn’t much better. This documentary claimed that shark “attacks” are increasing because we killed too many sharks so now there are too many seals so there are too many sharks. Huh?

Discovery’s press release, however, showed little sign of remorse for the hoax that frightened Canadian citizens:

“This video has certainly sparked the conversation around sharks, confirming what we already know to be true: Canadians are captivated by these creatures,” said Paul Lewis, President and General Manager, Discovery. “We’re ready to feed this fascination next month with more SHARK WEEK hours than ever before.”

[Image via National Post]