The Shark Brothers do it for the Love of Sharks
Meet Florida’s Shark Brothers who are on a mission to shatter the sensational myths about sharks through their approach to shark conservation, research and education.
(This Authentic Florida article was originally published on Visit Sarasota. Photos courtesy of The Shark Brothers.)
As kids, brothers Sean and Brooks Paxton were obsessed with sharks
Their Obsession Began as Kids
Brothers Sean and Brooks Paxton have been obsessed with sharks since they were kids. It started in 1975 when they saw the movie JAWS and it had a profound effect on the youngsters. Inspired by the movie, Sean and Brooks spent hours in the swimming pool staging scenarios of GI Joe action figures, dressed as scuba frogmen, riding inflatable zodiacs while white plastic sharks lurked in the deep water below.
Through the years the Paxton brothers never lost their love of sharks. They traveled on the road with their parents (who were touring entertainers) and were exposed to new places, always including varied outdoor experiences and all kinds of wildlife.
Following in the family’s footsteps, the Paxton brothers became musical performers on their own, backing up well-known rock bands including Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Doobie Brothers. But the obsession with sharks, and a salty life of adventure, continued to simmer throughout their ongoing travel.
Fast forward many years later, and the boys have put away the toys, and concert tours but are still adventuring in the shark tank, only this time the obsession has become a calling, and they have channeled their talents into a multimedia business – including producing documentaries specializing in sharks, marine wildlife and habitat conservation.
Brooks (L) and Sean (R) on a Shark Expedition
Over time they developed their expertise and have earned the moniker “Shark Brothers.” Sean and Brooks have worked with the National Geographic, the Florida Aquarium, and the Discovery Channel including filming an expedition with Sarasota’s Mote Marine Laboratory’s Shark Research team. You may have even seen them featured on television during “Shark Week.”
The Shark Brothers participate in shark research during this BP Oil Spill Documentary
Following a Mission: Conservation, Research and Education
But the Paxtons, who are North Port residents in Sarasota County, adventure into the coastal waters with more than a quest for adventure. They are on a mission. The Shark Brothers are well known pioneers in the arena of recreational shark-release fishing and have devised important safety protocols for both anglers and sharks in tournaments – including the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament.
Shark release tournaments and recommended guidelines create an alternative to killing the much-feared predators, creating a path into the practical realm of shark conservation. Considered innovators in shark preservation, Sean and Brooks have become recognized as trail blazers – capitalizing on their experience as divers, anglers, explorers, researchers, educators – and of course, performers. By de-emphasizing the commercial and sensational depiction of sharks as terrifying creatures. The Shark Brothers have busted many myths about the creatures through their creative approach to understanding the species.
Brooks Paxton doing a tag and release of a Sandbar shark
Specific projects that result in meaningful knowledge of sharks and have deepened their love and appreciation of sharks include the National Marine Fisheries Shark Tagging program, an effort that created baseline biological data on Atlantic Ocean sharks. Another project in which they are involved is the International Land-Based Shark Fishing Association (ILSFA), which certifies world records for released sharks.
The Shark’s Brothers portfolio of films, through their company Shot Locker Productions, actually includes more than shark themes. Sunken treasures and shipwrecks, sea turtle nesting, coral restoration and vacation getaways are also topics, but they all share an underlying premise – stewardship of the environment.
To fulfill that stewardship role one of their favorite places to be is in local classrooms teaching and inspiring youngsters to learn about sharks, marine life and the importance of conservation.
One recent Shark Brothers video series, Adventure and Wildlife, explores Florida’s wild outdoors and nature-based activities – including Englewood’s Lemon Bay High School marine science program – a collaborative project that the Paxton brothers hosted with the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Sean Paxton measures a Blacktip shark after tagging
Sean and Brooks answer some questions you might want to know about sharks:
What sharks are commonly found off the Florida coasts?
The list of shark species found in Florida’s coastal waters is fortunately very long, but here is a short list found in our Gulf waters: Blacknose, Atlantic Sharpnose, Bonnethead, Blacktip, Spinner, Sandbar, Sand Tiger, Lemon, Bull, Nurse, Tiger, Great Hammerhead, Scalloped Hammerhead, Shortfin Mako, Longfin Mako, Dusky, White and Whale shark.
What do you say to those who are afraid of sharks?
Sharks don’t seek us out as a preferred food source. Shark bites can only occur when we enter their domain, and usually when other dynamics are at play. Time of day, for instance. Sharks are typically more active and feeding during dusk and dawn. Another common dynamic at play when sharks bite people is the presence of smaller fish that sharks normally feed on. This can cause a shark to mistakenly bite a human in pursuit of their normal prey item. That fact is, sharks should be respected not feared, while keeping in mind that, statistically, we’re more vulnerable to being injured falling out of bed or driving to the beach for a swim.
What can you tell us about sharks not commonly known?
Sharks have existed longer than trees and dinosaurs. The oldest known species of tree existed approximately 350 million years ago and the earliest dinosaur about 245 million years ago. Sharks came on the scene at around 400 million years ago. That tree and dinosaurs no longer exist, but sharks are still here after surviving four of our planet’s mass extinctions.
What is your most fascinating factoid about sharks?
Over half of the World’s 500 + shark species spend most of their life existence at depths of nearly 1000 feet and are rarely seen by humans.
Florida native Robin Draper is a with AuthenticFlorida.com, a travel and lifestyle blog devoted to the simple and delightful pleasures for Florida living recognized as “Blog of the Year” and “Best Travel Blog” website by the Florida Sunshine awards.