Posts Tagged 'shark week'



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. 

A tale of two sand tiger sharks

We’re very excited to welcome two new sand tiger sharks to the Open Ocean exhibit at the National Aquarium, Baltimore.

Where did these sharks come from, and how did they get to the Aquarium? Watch this video to find out:

Whenever possible, the animals in our exhibits are bred right here at the National Aquarium, or at other zoos and aquariums across the country. The National Aquarium has successfully bred many species of cartilaginous fish, including Southern stingrays and cownose rays. Breeding programs reduce the need to collect animals from the wild.

Did you know? The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) maintains a forum where accredited institutions can swap animals—it’s like Craigslist for aquariums!

Breeding programs are not possible for some species, including the sand tiger shark, due to intensive resource requirements and logistical impossibilities.

For this reason, Andy Dehart, director of Fishes & Aquatic Invertebrates for the National Aquarium and renowned shark expert, and his team are leading the way for sustainable shark-collecting practices that put the safety and health of the animals first.

Sharks are collected using a long-line fishing technique that minimizes bycatch, or fish caught unintentionally, and “we modify our fishing hooks, sanding off the barbs, to reduce injury and handling time of the sharks,” says Andy. “We know that line fishing with barbless hooks means we catch less sharks, but that’s a trade off we’re happy to accept,” he continues.

The sharks are transported back to shore in a special shark-sized fish box on the Aquarium’s shark collecting vessel. If a shark is thrashing in the fish box, Dehart and other Aquarium staff will actually get in the box and “hug” the shark to keep it still to prevent any injury.

A big, cold, wet shark hug—now that’s dedication!

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’

S.O.S., save our sharks

From Andy Dehart, Director of Biological Programs in Washington, DC

This weekend is Shark Weekend at the National Aquarium’s DC venue. We are celebrating sharks and teaching visitors more about these fascinating animals. In my last blog post, I mentioned that some species of sharks have decreased by nearly 90% in just the last 20 years. Before I explain why that is happening, let me ask a question: What do the following have in common:  driving to the beach, dogs, lightning, pigs, and falling coconuts? 

Well, all of these kill more people per year than sharks.  Last year there were only 59 unprovoked shark attacks with DSC_0731only 4 fatalities worldwide.  This is a decrease from the 71 the year before and a continued drop from the year 2000 despite continued population growth and beach attendance.  Clearly we have very little to fear from sharks.

Sharks, however, can not say the same about their risk from mankind.  Each day roughly 250,000 sharks are killed through targeted fisheries and as bycatch.  Many sharks are slow to mature and have very few young compared to other fish.  Some species, such as the sandbar shark which we have in our Open Ocean exhibit at our Baltimore venue, can take up to 10-14 years to mature and only have 1-14 young every other year after a 9 month gestation.  To top it off, many of the habitats these sharks are using as nursery areas are becoming overdeveloped leading to habitat loss and polluted waters.

Continue reading ‘S.O.S., save our sharks’

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’


Sign up for AquaMail

Twitter Updates


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 236 other followers