Shark Week: Forrest Galante talks about Extinct or Alive: The Lost Shark

Shark Week 2019, Extinct or Alive: The Lost Shark -- Courtesy of Discovery Channel
Shark Week 2019, Extinct or Alive: The Lost Shark -- Courtesy of Discovery Channel /

Forrest Galante has an episode of Extinct or Alive for Shark Week 2019. He’s on the hunt for a Pondicherry, and he shares more about the expedition.

Forrest Galante is on a mission to find the Pondicherry in the Shark Week special of Extinct or Alive. The shark hasn’t been seen since the 1970s and is believed to be extinct, but Galante may just find out something different. Hidden Remote had the chance to dive into the deep with him to talk about the Pondicherry, the expedition, and the things we can all do to help all sharks.

There are no spoilers for the episode of Extinct or Alive: The Lost Shark in this interview. We don’t give away whether Galante finds the Pondicherry or not. And whether he finds it or not, there are still plenty of lessons to learn. This isn’t just about one species but all species of sharks.

Here’s our dive into this exciting expedition and don’t forget Shark Week continues all week on Discovery!

Hidden Remote: Is there a lot of extra planning for the underwater expeditions?

Forrest Galante: Not extra planning, but it requires more equipment. Like any expedition, it requires its own set of challenges.

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HR: What’s it like going into this world where you’re the prey and those sharks do not want you there! Those sharks are very territorial.

Galante: I’ve worked with a lot of big sharks all around the world, White Sharks, Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, you name it. Those Tiger Sharks in the Maldives were the most fired up, on a mission sharks I’ve ever seen. They came in off that deep ledge from who knows how many thousands of feet on a mission. It was terrifying in a great way.

HR: What was it about this expedition that drew you in?

Galante: The Pondicherry in the arena that I run in is that shark. There’s only a handful of sharks that have been driven to extinction at the hand of man, and the Pondicherry is kind of the flagship. It’s the most well-known species that’s disappeared due to human fishing practices. In fact, some people claim it’s the first fish from the ocean to have disappeared from overfishing.

It’s the poster child for marine biologists and those looking at animals driven to extinction by human impact. That’s what drew me to the species.

What made me target it takes into account the reports, the possibility it could still be out there, and where to look, how it looked, and all of those factors. We decided it deserved its own search.

HR: It was heartbreaking to watch all those sharks pulled out of the water. There’s the fear that that could be the last one of its species. What’s it like for you going into these places with the overfishing?

Galante: Unfortunately, I’ve become somewhat callous to seeing it at this point in my career. Given that what I do is search for animals driven to extinction, I see a lot of wildlife tragedy. That being said, it’s never easy to see regardless of what it is or how it’s been taken. Seeing it killed is really hard.

In this particular instance, it’s such a small seasonal fishing village and it’s not like the fisherman were there with the factory or commercial ships, which are far more damaging. What they were doing was terrible but with such a small-scale operation, that I didn’t feel that massive sense of sorrow witnessing the fishing. Instead, I was excited to see what their catch was.

Shark Week 2019 — Courtesy of Discovery Channel
Shark Week 2019 — Courtesy of Discovery Channel /

HR: It’s not just about finding the species and the creatures. There’s the aftermath, whether you find out if they’re extinct or not. What steps do you take after this episode?

Galante: It’s a slow and lengthy process. Science is science, and it’s rigorous. I appreciate and applaud that. Now the show is coming to light, we now need to take this to a global level. We’re working with [Time Warner Cable], Global Wildlife Conservation, and, in this case, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Because I didn’t have permits during the expedition, I couldn’t bring any tissue back with me to the United States. Even though my wife and I did our own testing, the tissue samples now need to be collected in Sri Lanka and tested again. Everything needs to be looked at genetically and once those steps are completed, whatever the outcome, then we can work on helping the species.

Where our expedition took place, we were in a National Park already. All we have to do is get the National Park boundary pushed out into the ocean two or three miles, and that will make a huge difference for all sharks. The river is at the mouth of the ocean, and the sharks get bottle-necked coming into the river.

Poaching and hunting isn’t allowed on land, but there are no regulations on land. If we can close that area to fishing, it will make a massive difference to all sharks. That’s what I’m working on since our expedition in Sri Lanka.

HR: Overfishing is a major problem, but that’s not the only issue. And for us in the United States, it can seem like it isn’t our problem. Is there anything we can do from here to help protect sharks and prevent extinction?

Galante: Overfishing is the biggest problem when it comes to sharks. We in the United States can contribute or not contribute to overfishing by making sustainable choices in seafood consumption by being educated. We think we can go to the store for salmon and we’re not affecting shark, but believe it or not, it does.

Everyone can Google about the fish species that are available in the store and how they affect shark populations, and all ocean population. Making sustainable choices is the number one thing we can do.

Extinct or Alive
Photo credit: Extinct or Alive/Animal Planet — Acquired via Animal Planet PR /

HR: Sometimes you don’t find the species out there or any sign of whether it’s still alive. Is there anything you can take from those expeditions that you can use in the future?

Galante: Absolutely! That’s the wonderful thinga bout what I do. Every expedition is a learning opportunity, not just for science, or learning about the species that we’re targeting and the status of the environment. We can learn things about closely related species.

Every ecosystem is interwoven with all the species that live there. In Extinct or Alive: The Lost Shark there are Bull Sharks. I wasn’t looking for them, but they occupy the same ecological niche as the Pondicherry. It’s possible to use data about the Bull Shark to look at the habits and draw parallels of what the Pondicherry’s habits could be.

HR: Is there anything coming up for you that you can or want to talk about?

Galante: There’s always something coming up for me. One thing I would love to talk about is Extinct or Alive Season 2 airs in October on Animal Planet. In the first episode, we travel to the Galápagos Islands and we find a tortoise that hasn’t been seen for 113 years. People are calling it the largest wildlife discovery of this century. You get to see a live animal at the end.

Shark Week has certainly shown us some of the most amazing footage of sharks. Take a look at just this clip from Expedition Unknown as Josh Gates searches for reasons why The Meg went extinct. There’s far more to come with Extinct or Alive and much more.

Forrest Galante talks about Animal Planet's Extinct or Alive and the preservation of wildlife. dark. Next

What have you loved about Shark Week on Discovery so far? Are you excited for Animal Planet’s Extinct or Alive Season 2? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Shark Week continues with Extinct or Alive: The Lost Shark on July 31 at 8 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.