On the hit TV show Mad Men, suburban housewife Betty Draper is surrounded by advertising sharks. In reality, January Jones, the actress who plays Betty, is a big fan of the aquatic predators. Jones took some time off from filming to answer questions about her work on Oceana’s “Scared for Sharks” campaign, how people’s taste for sharks is imperiling them, and free-swimming with the predators. From Audubon's July-August issue.
Sharks have entranced me ever since I can remember. I was astounded to find out that the fishing industry kills tens of millions of sharks annually for their fins. The practice is often barbaric, involving sharks having their fins sliced off in open water with their bodies thrown overboard to die. Some shark populations are now depleted by over 90 percent in just the past few decades, mostly because of the growing appetite for shark fin soup. I am hoping to help Oceana promote the passage of a shark conservation act that would close loopholes that facilitate shark finning in U.S. waters.
Last year you waded into Washington’s political waters to lobby for legislation to end shark finning. What was that like?
It was humbling—it was my first time meeting with legislators and traveling to Washington, D.C. But I was encouraged by how receptive everyone was to our cause. Senator McCain even committed to supporting the shark conservation act. It was empowering knowing that you really can make a difference through advocacy.
You got into a shark pen in Bimini—was it scary?
I actually swam freely with juvenile and adult lemon sharks. I was nervous that I would mess up or disappoint the experts from the Bimini Biological Field Station. I wanted to be professional, but it was my first time swimming with sharks, so naturally I was feeling a big adrenaline rush! The juvenile sharks were so perfect and cute! The nurse sharks were definitely grumpier about being held. They were like little tanks. But the lemon sharks were really fine with being touched and flipped on their back into tonic hypnosis. It was so neat to set a couple of them back into the wild after weighing and tagging.
I recently traveled to Belize to swim with whale sharks and help with Oceana’s next PSA. It was awe-inspiring to snorkel with a creature that many people know little about. Belize is home to the Western Hemisphere’s largest barrier reef, which provides critical habitat for marine life. I hope my trip helps bring more attention to this incredible ecosystem.