We’re all aware of the stereotypes that have surrounded Sharks over recent years but here at Blue Planet Aquarium we think its time people saw how gentle these beautiful creatures really are. That’s why we’re launching our new I LOVE BIG SHARKS campaign – and there’s lots of ways you can be involved too!
Blue Planet Aquarium is home to one of Europe’s largest collection of Sharks – some which are up to 3m long! We have around 9 different types of Shark on display and are passionate about helping to raise awareness of how important these animals are to our eco systems.
Over the coming weeks we’ll be doing lots of activities to help our visitors get to know these gentle giants better – keep checking our website and Facebook page for more info.
So why are we worried about Sharks?
The Sharks in our Oceans are disappearing at an alarming rate with some species declining by around 90% in the last 20 years.
One of the most serious issues facing shark populations today is over fishing. Shark populations take a long time to recover from over fishing as they grow very slowly and can take 20 or more years to mature. When they do reproduce they have very few offspring compared to other fish species, which has led to some shark species already becoming endangered.
Shark finning is the practice of removing the shark fins after it has been caught in a fishery. The fins are kept and the body of the shark is usually returned to the sea, often while the shark is still alive. Unable to swim or pass water across its gills the shark dies from suffocation blood loss or predation by other species. This is an incredibly improvident practice because 95% of the carcass, a source of protein, is wasted. Only the fins are kept because shark fins are now among the most expensive seafood items in the world.
Climate change also has an effect on Shark populations. Global Warming has resulted in an increase in water temperatures leading some sharks to move to new locations where they can be more comfortable. This means they can be in areas where people are boating, fishing and swimming. Sharks have been evolving for millions of years but never before have they had to deal with humans on such large scales.
Why do we need Sharks?
Sharks play a vital role within the Ocean’s eco-system and are considered to be ‘keystone’ species within its very intricate food webs. Ultimately this means that removing them would cause the whole structure to collapse. For this reason, the prospect of a food chain minus its apex predators may mean the end of the line for many more species.
Predatory sharks prey on the sick and the weak members of their prey populations, and some also scavenge the sea floor to feed on dead carcasses. By removing the sick and the weak, they prevent the spread of disease and prevent outbreaks that could be devastating. Preying on the weakest individuals also strengthens the gene pools of the prey species. Since the largest, strongest, and healthiest fish generally reproduce in greater numbers, the outcome is larger numbers of healthier fish.
What can we do to help?
There are many charities that have been set up to help raise awareness of Shark Conservation through research projects, campaigning and educating the public. By supporting these charities you can help them to continue their work.
Possibly the most important thing you can do is to think twice before you buy Shark products. Humans kill around 100 million sharks per year for use in Shark fin soup, or for their teeth, skin and cartilage. These products are often sold in tourist shops around the world with single Great White teeth often selling for $100 or a whole jaw for up to $10,000!