Nine-year old Sean Lesniak is quite confident in his love of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. When asked if he is the No. 1 Shark Week fan, Lesniak says, without hesitation, “Yes,” and all things considered, there’s little room for doubt.
“No one loves Shark Week more than I do,” Lesniak says. “People in school call me Sharkboy because I love sharks so much.”
Lesniak is unfazed by sharks’ reputation for being scary. To him, sharks are striking creatures to be admired. “They keep our coral reefs healthy and they keep our fish population in balance,” Lesniak says. “They’re magnificent.”
Lesniak first became interested in sharks through watching Discovery Channel’s annual deep-dive into the ocean’s top predators, beginning at the age of three. He has been addicted ever since. “I love Shark Week because it’s a week about sharks,” Lesniak exclaims. He seems slightly taken aback by the inquiry—Shark Week’s awesomeness requires explanation?
This year, Lesniak is most looking forward to Jaws Strikes Back and Air Jaws: Fin of Fury, which he plans to watch from home with his lucky shark, Sharkboy (pictured), whom he named in his likeness. But Lesniak’s shark fervor goes beyond the screen: Inspired by a documentary on declining shark populations, he wrote a letter to Rep. David M. Nangle, Democrat of Lowell, Massachusetts, a friend of his dad’s, persuading him to put an end to shark finning, a practice in which fishermen cut off sharks’ fins. The animals are often thrown back in the water. Unable to swim, they drown.
Rep. Nangle moved a bill, filed on Lesniak’s behalf, forward. Lesniak later spoke at a House Judiciary Committee meeting, making a plea for his cause. On July 24, 2014, Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill into law, banning the possession and sale of shark fins in Massachusetts, making it the ninth state to criminalize shark finning, according to The Boston Globe.
“I felt like I can do anything,” Lesniak says. The decision inspired him to do more to help marine life. Currently, he’s taking steps to stop the sale of sea-turtle shells for jewelry because without their shells, sea turtles are left vulnerable to the predators of the ocean.
Down the line, Lesniak hopes to become a marine biologist, tagging sharks to track their patterns and learn more about the elusive creatures.
“By the time I’m in college, Greg Skomal is going to be retired and I’ll take his job,” Lesniak says. Skomal, a marine biologist, will be featured this year in the aforementioned Jaws Strikes Back, a special that looks at the hunting behavior of great white sharks in Guadalupe.
Shark Week kicks off Sunday, Aug. 10, beginning with Air Jaws: Fin of Fury at 8 p.m. ET/PT.