We love sharks and rays here at the National Marine Aquarium. In fact we love them so much that there are over a hundred living here! We love the big ones and the small ones, the weird ones and the pretty ones. But sharks are actually having a pretty tough time in the oceans.
It’s easy to think that because sharks are such perfect predators that nothing could hurt them; but sharks are facing lots of different threats, particularly human caused and disappearing from our oceans faster than ever.
Thankfully there are some great organisations sticking up for sharks around the world, making an enormous difference. The National Marine Aquarium is hugely proud to work with many of these, including The Shark Trust.
One issue for shark conservationists is that we just don’t know much about them. We don’t know where many sharks go to breed or have their pups, we don’t know where their most important feeding spots are, we don’t even know how long many of them live! The National Marine Aquarium has helped fund research into Hammerhead Sharks in Japan to help remedy this.
As well as researching sharks, there are lots of advocacy groups out there, like the Shark Trust, who ask governments to write laws protecting sharks. Thanks to their work, along with others, since 2013 shark finning is now completely banned in Europe! On top of that, The Shark Trust has helped to protect some of our local sharks, like the magnificent Basking Shark; and have added these sharks to the list of animals protected by CITES.
Another huge problem for sharks is all the plastic we dump into the oceans. Sharks can’t vomit in the same way we can. They have to push their whole stomach up out of their mouths, turn it inside out, and shake it around so all the rubbish falls out. Their stomachs are like great big balloons, can you imagine how hard it is to push past their razor sharp teeth! But thankfully once again, there are lots of groups out there trying to reduce the amount of plastic in the oceans, and we’ve written about that before!
Finally, the best way to help sharks in the ocean is simply to tell people about them. The more people who learn about sharks, and start to love them, the more people there will be acting to help them. Whether that means using less plastic, or eating less fish from unsustainable sources – the first step is always to teach people why sharks are so cool, and then why they need our help. This is something The National Marine Aquarium is passionate about, and something we hope our visitors can help with. So if you love sharks and want to help them, the best thing to do is to tell your friends, family, and everyone you meet! If you want to know what to say, then why not come to The National Marine Aquarium, and we’ll introduce you to our favourite fishy friends!