Shark Week Star on How He Went From a Victim to an Advocate for the Sea Creatures

John Cena on Shark Week

Discovery’s Shark Week, the granddaddy of all summertime shark stunts, is back for its 36th installment, with actor-wrestler John Cena hosting. Another notable personality involved: Shark conservationist Paul de Gelder (above), who has brought his expertise to previous specials, returns in five new programs.

shark week great white

(Credit: Discovery)

One of those is Great White Serial Killer, in which de Gelder helps locals in a Mexican fishing village identify the great white shark behind three attacks in three years — two of them fatal. De Gelder himself survived a horrific attack when a bull shark grabbed him from below.

“It removed my hamstring and my right hand in the same bite,” de Gelder tells us, “and I was forced to swim back to my safety boat with one hand and one functioning leg through a pool of my own blood.”

If anyone would be justified in fearing sharks, it’s de Gelder. But the opposite is true. “Before I was attacked, I basically hated sharks. I didn’t understand…how important they were,” he says. “But the more I learned, the more I realized how little we actually have to fear from them and how much they have to fear from us. So now I feel it’s my duty to speak up for this animal that doesn’t have a voice.”

Shark Week, Premieres Sunday, July 7, 8/7c, Discovery