Posts Tagged 'discovery channel'



Why We’re Thankful for SHARKS!

Our blue planet has been inhabited by sharks for more than 420 million years. We now have close to 500 different species of sharks ranging in size from the dwarf lanternshark (only about 6 inches in length) to the whale shark (the largest fish in the world)!

Although they have become the subject of the international phenomenon otherwise known as Discovery Channel’s Shark Week (which boasted an average of 27 million viewers last year), there is still so much to learn about these amazing creatures.

wobbegong shark

The very interesting tasselled wobbegong shark – coming to our new Blacktip Reef exhibit in summer 2013!

In honor of our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, we hope to educate our visitors and community about the misconceptions surrounding these amazing animals.

To get to know more about our sharks, we sat down with one of our shark caretakers, Alan Henningsen:

National Aquarium: How long have you been working with sharks? 

Alan Henningsen: I’ve been working alongside sharks for 32 years.

NA: What is your favorite shark species? 

AH: It’s hard to say! My favorite animal is by far the sawfish, which is actually a species of ray.

A sand tiger shark cruises slowly above sawfish in our Shark Alley exhibit.

I have worked with lemon sharks a lot over the years. Actually, the sand tiger sharks and sandbar sharks are my favorite.

The sand tiger sharks get up close and personal with visitors in our Shark Alley exhibit.

NA: What are your daily duties caring for the National Aquarium sharks? 

AH: My day-to-day duties include observing and recording behavior, maintaining the exhibit (e.g. lighting and cleaning), preparing food and feedings.

NA: How many sharks do you care for? 

AH: In our Shark Alley exhibit, I am currently caring for 10 large sharks (5 sand tiger, 2 sandbar and 3 nurse sharks), and 3 rays (2 freshwater sawfish and 1 roughtail ray).

NA: What’s your favorite fun fact about sharks? 

AH: That’s another tough one! I think the diverse way in which sharks reproduce is fascinating. From internal fertilization to asexual conception, sharks display a diverse array of reproduction cycles.

Want to get up close and personal with our amazing sharks and rays to learn even more about these species? Lucky for you, we are hosting a Shark Sleepover on Friday, November 23. Bring the out-of-town family too (we can almost guarantee it will make you the coolest member of your family).

What species of animal are YOU most thankful for this year? Tell us in the comments section below!

Thoughtful Thursday: Save our finned friends!

If you love sharks, like us, you most likely have a case of Shark Week fever! Sharks have been swimming in the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years (since before the dinosaurs).

Although Discovery Channel’s annual event has become a cultural phenomenon, spawning sales of fin headbands and shark costumes for pets, this special week also brings the important issue of shark conservation to the forefront of people’s minds. These beautiful and amazing creatures might be scary to some, but their numbers are dwindling at an even scarier rate. As many as one-third of shark species are headed for extinction if we don’t act now.

In the 31 years the National Aquarium, Baltimore, has been open, sharks have gone from a commercial fishery the federal government declared underutilized to the brink of extinction. In that time, hammerhead shark populations in the Atlantic have decreased by nearly 93%. Since 1986, all recorded shark populations in the northwestern Atlantic, with the exception of mako sharks, have declined by more than 50%.

Scientists warn that continual overfishing of sharks has decimated the population, which cannot sustain the current rates. The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species estimates that 30% of open ocean sharks are threatened with extinction.

Below are just a few easy ways you can support our finned friends:

Join the Shark Week Facebook, Twitter Campaign
Show your support and join the Shark Week thunderclap. Through this online platform, shark fans can lend their voice to the cause and spread the word about protecting sharks from extinction.

Protest Shark Fin Soup
Every year, fins from tens of millions of sharks are used for this traditional, non-nutritional meal. Many species have been depleted nearly to the brink of extinction. Research shows that the massive depletion of sharks has cascading effects throughout the ocean’s ecosystems. Locally, the depletion of sandbar sharks has caused an increase in cownose rays in the Chesapeake Bay, which threatens the oyster industry. You can help by signing the Humane Society’s No Shark Fin Pledge.

Petition to List Great White Sharks Under the Endangered Species Act 
Great white sharks are disappearing. Help U.S. West Coast great whites get the protection they need by signing the Oceana petition.

Participate in a Shark Tagging Trip
Come aboard a National Aquarium shark tagging trip! Tagging sharks provides scientists with information on stock identity, migration and abundance, age and growth, mortality, and behavior. Although our 2012 trips are sold out, we encourage you to sign up for a 2013 trip! Next year’s dates will be announced in spring 2013. 

Exploring sharks, after dark

From Andy Dehart, Director of Biological Programs at the National Aquarium, DC

Shark Week 2009 kicks off this Sunday at 9:00 EST on Discovery Channel! I am wrapping up a frenzied media tour that Andy Shark after Darkhas enabled me to talk to  television networks, radio stations, and newspapers around the country about how important sharks are to our oceans and the threats they face, as well as the Shark Conservation Act of 2009. Tonight we will be talking with Larry King live in Los Angeles to dispel many of the myths surrounding sharks and shark attacks. Throughout the next week I will be on the CBS Early show which will be covering Shark Week every day.

One of the questions I am often asked throughout these interviews is, what is my favorite experience with sharks. In all honesty, every encounter I have had with sharks has been incredibly special to me. I have had the good fortune to be able to dive with over 40 species of sharks in my career and each experience has been unique. My hope is that all of these species will be around for future generations to enjoy as I have.

Continue reading ‘Exploring sharks, after dark’

A life with sharks

From Andy Dehart, Director of Biological Programs in Washington, DC
 
If you are a shark fan like me, you probably already know that Discovery Channel’s SHARK WEEK is just around the corner! Now that I have the great privilege of having two wonderfully rewarding jobs with the National Aquarium and the Discovery Channel, Shark Week is becoming a year round affair for me. Andy Shark after Dark small

I have worked for the National Aquarium in numerous capacities – from selling tickets in admissions to my current role at our newly renovated DC venue – for nearly 17 years.  Sharks have always been my passion.  For me it started when I was only five years old when I got to see a 6 foot long Caribbean reef shark while snorkeling with my father in the Florida Keys.  Pardon the pun, but I was hooked and have followed the dream of working with sharks ever since.
 
Throughout  my career I have dabbled in media and when the unfortunate and extremely rare cases of mistaken identity rolled around and a bather or surfer was attacked by a shark, I have been called upon by the media to answer questions about shark attacks.  In 2003 I got the chance to work on my first Shark Week show, Sharks Under Glass, about sharks in public aquariums. Last year I was approached by Discovery Channel to sign on as their Shark Advisor, which meant reviewing show and online content, contributing to online content and doing television and print interviews.

Continue reading ‘A life with sharks’

Busting Myths!

From Andy Dehart, Director of Biological Programs at the National Aquarium in DC and Discovery Channel Shark Advisor

Shark Week is finally here! No one loves Shark Week more than I do. I have been fascinated with sharks since my first sighting at just 5 years old when  I was scuba diving with my dad. I have had the opportunity to study sharks for most of my career, and have had many close and personal encounters with these perfect predators. However, sharks continue to amaze me each and every day.

For the last 21 years Discovery Channel’s Shark Week has featured programming that aims to teach people that we don’t have much to fear in sharks. Unfortunately, our fascination with sharks seems to be tied too closely with fear.

I encourage people to tune into Shark Week to learn more about sharks, how they rule the marine ecosystem and yet, are being threatened by man. Catch a special edition of Mythbusters tonight at 8 pm EST. For now, I’d like to leave you with a mythbusters of my own…

Continue reading ‘Busting Myths!’


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