The world’s shark populations are being depleted faster than they can reproduce. Hundreds of millions are killed annually for their fins and other products. Many more millions are discarded as by-catch. Sharks are vitally important apex predators, and their loss endangers the health of marine ecosystems worldwide. Of the roughly 500 known species of sharks worldwide, the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the status of 63 percent as near-threatened or worse.
Sharks are a pilot species of AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction, and accredited institutions are working together to help save sharks worldwide.
The National Aquarium gets the public involved in this effort by hosting shark tagging events every summer. Participants help the aquarium collect data on the location, size and type of sharks off the coast of Ocean City, MD. This not only helps the aquarium with their research, but it also gives the public a special chance to safely interact and learn about the many different species of sharks in their natural habitats.
Recently, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium teamed up with Cuban scientists to study the previously unresearched coral reefs and shark populations. The joint team was able to place satellite tags on silky, lemon and nurse sharks, using a new method that avoids hooks, nets, ropes and spears, ensuring the safety and comfort of the animals. This research will help determine where these shark species go, and what areas we should work to protect.
A joint team from the Seattle Aquarium, NOAA Fisheries Service, the University of Washington, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been researching the native populations of sixgill sharks in the Puget Sound, off the coast of Seattle. Aquarium divers observe and tag these local sharks in the underwater research station under the aquarium. The species can grow up to 15 feet—the largest shark found in the waters off Seattle. This research has helped with population estimates for the species and determined Puget Sound as an important nursing ground, as well as tracking travel patterns in the area.
Learn more about what AZA-accredited institutions are doing to help save sharks and how you can get involved.