Posts Tagged 'shark conservation'



A good day for sharks

“Save the sharks” is the message in the nation’s capital this week, as efforts to protect sharks mounted on Capitol Hill and at the National Aquarium’s Washington venue. 

Yesterday, as National Aquarium staff and syndicated cartoonist Jim Toomey prepared to personally deliver more than 6,000  shark conservation letters collected from visitors to NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Eric Schwaab, the Senate passed a very important shark conservation bill that would put new restrictions on shark finning in U.S. waters.

And today, just after the sacks of personally signed letters urging shark protection were delivered by the group and Aquarium mascot Sherman the Shark, the House passed the very same bill. The legislation, deemed the Shark Conservation Act and sponsored by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), will close loopholes in the  current ban on shark finning in the U.S.

Jim Toomey is the creator of Sherman the Shark, a popular cartoon character that appears daily in more than 150 newspapers in the U.S. and around the world to help promote greater awareness and protection of these ancient, mysterious and often misunderstood ocean dwellers. Toomey’s fun-loving character is also the inspiration and theme of Sherman’s Lagoon, the National Aquarium’s newest exhibit in Washington, which features interactive workstations, educational shark videos and shark myths and conservation messages from Sherman the Shark throughout.

Thousands of Sherman’s Lagoon visitors have signed and submitted the letters that were delivered today. The letters are personal requests asking the agency to help promote shark conservation, specifically on the topic of overfishing, which remains the number-one threat facing sharks today. Signers of the letters also added their own personal artwork renderings of their favorite sharks, as seen in this letter from Cara.

Along with Jim Toomey, our Executive Director Bob Ramin and several students delivered more than 6,000 letters from kids from around the country to NOAA Fisheries headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. NOAA Fisheries Administrator Eric Schwaab personally accepted the delivery and sat down with Toomey to discuss some of the leading efforts by NOAA to conserve sharks.

It’s a good day for sharks. Bob Ramin said it best: “They may not know it, but sharks have received a wonderful holiday gift this season–the gift of conservation and awareness.”

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’

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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