Its Shark Week in Aquatics! This is truly one of my favorites times of the year as we learn about sharks and how important they are to the ocean environment. My goal is for each of you to come out of this with a greater appreciation for sharks, and less fear of these amazing animals.
In order to understand them, we must first be able to identify them. Right now we know of 450 different types of shark that swim in our oceans around the world! That is an amazing number for an animal whose gene pool has been around for millions of years and survived 4 extinction events that wiped out dinosaurs and other organisms. In our local waters of the Gulf of Mexico there at least 49 different types of shark that call the gulf home. If we know what type of shark lives in a certain area it helps us understand what they need for survival and what we need to do to protect that environment. For example, the whale shark is a beautiful creature that migrates through the gulf every year. In the past there have been 80-100 sightings a year of these giant fish swimming in our waters. After the BP oil spill, that number reduced to 35. I wish we had policy in place that required the guarantee of the safety of the natural habitat and the animals within before we just drill without any care of remorse.
We will spend time this week also learning about shark behaviors and what is being done to protect them. Fortunately we are learning about sharks during a time when they have fascinated enough people and scientists to bring much needed positive attention their way. Thanks to organizations like OCEARCH, led by my favorite shark scientist Chris Fischer (no relation), and also to the social media educator David Shiffman , people are learning more about the positive impact sharks have on the ocean ecosystem, and what needs to be done to protect them.
I hope you enjoy this week as much as I do. This will also lead us into one of the best times of year, where we really get to "dive in" to the shark and dissect a spiny dogfish. So get ready and hopefully what we learn impacts you and leads to helping protect these beautiful fish!