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L.A. County Fair tries to clear the waters on shark myths

Karlie Bettencourt
Copy Editor

This year the Los Angeles County Fair has a Live Shark Encounter exhibit that lets audience members laugh and learn some quick facts while watching a diver interact with the animals as if they were not sharks at all.

The show attracts so many audience members that a majority of them have to stand because all of the seats are taken before the show even begins.

The fun starts right at the beginning when the “Jaws” theme comes on and a hatch slowly opens with fog, revealing the sharks to the audience.

During one part of the show, the instructor jumps into the tank with the sharks. Most people think that the sharks do not attack him because they recognize him.

“It wouldn’t make a difference if I jumped in or you jumped in,” Philip Peters said.

Peters is one of the people who put together the show and started the company Haai Inc. in 2004.

“Sharks only have about a two-second attention span,” he said.

Four nurse sharks and one lemon shark are kept in a 5,000-gallon tractor-trailer tank so that transportation to other shows is easy.

There is no other truck in the nation that doubles as tank to hold sea animals, said Peter Pefley, also known as Captain Rick, who is one of the two people that work on the Live Shark Exhibit.

Peters has been traveling across the nation and even to Canada, educating millions of people on sharks in order to save the species.

While in the tank, Peters interacts with the sharks while Pefley shares facts and the history behind Peters and the show.

Turning the sharks upside down causes them to go into a trance, Pefley said.

Sure enough, as Peters turned one of the sharks upside down it became completely still.

While also giving out facts, Pefley and Peters joked with the audience by having Peters take a shark and ballroom dance with it and also turn it on its side to pretend that it was a guitar.

“I was bothered by the fact that it was funny,” said Vicky Campos, a freshman music major.

“The way he danced with the shark and treated it like it was a guitar was disturbing,” Campos said.

The sharks in the show are rescued from places that have used them for research, were found injured or from people who kept them as pets but did not understand how to properly care for them.

It is a law that animals that are held in captivity cannot be released back into the wild.

After research facilities use them, the sharks can either be euthanized or given to a place that will take care of them. This is why Haai Inc. tries to get sharks from them first.

While some people complain that the tanks are too small or the sharks are not well taken care of, Pefley insists that they are.

“We can always find someone to disagree,” Pefley said.

The company has a veterinarian on staff in case they become sick or injured.

After the sharks are ready to retire from the live shark exhibit, Haai inc. contacts various aquariums to try to find them a home for the remainder of their lives.

The Live Shark Encounter will be at the fair giving performances at 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Saturday and Sunday shows will take place at noon, 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Karlie Bettencourt can be reached at

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