Don't fear the fin: Saving Sharks exhibit shows misunderstood fish need our help, not our fear

September 29, 2017

Justifying not only the existence, but the conservation of Jaws is a hard license plate to swallow for many ocean-loving humans. Not everyone feels pity for the ocean’s apex predators, but the fact is that sharks are crucial to the health of our world’s oceans and their declining populations need our help now more than ever. Helping to illustrate the various ways in which we can and are conserving shark species is Saving Sharks, the newest exhibit brought to you by the Texas State Aquarium, OCEARCH, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Due to unsustainable fishing practices, habitat alteration, climate change, and finning, shark populations have declined between 70 and 90 percent in recent years, leaving many of them swimming toward the endangered species list. Humans, unfortunately, have had a heavy hand in getting them there. The good news is, we can help turn their grim fate around. Passing on all shark products, consuming only sustainable fish, fishing responsibly, and learning more about your local shark populations are all things you can do to make the oceans safer for sharks – which makes it safer for us all.

Saving Sharks aims to support these conservation practices by furthering learning about these often misunderstood predators using facts and educational efforts to combat such ideologies. A section on shark biology helps accomplish this by exhibiting a shark’s cartilaginous skeleton, as well as skin, scales, and teeth samples from a number of different species.

Designed to capture the hearts and minds of would-be conservationists and lifelong shark fans, alike, Saving Sharks is a fun, interactive, and informative exhibit. Featuring a live touch tank area where visitors can see and feel whitespotted bamboo, horn, and epaulette sharks, track great whites in real time, and even stand inside a life-sized underwater diving cage, it’s a shark showcase that’s sure to excite and engage every member of the family!

The king of the shark world, the great white, is well represented throughout the exhibit, especially where OCEARCH is concerned. OCEARCH is a non-profit organization and leader in open source data collection and research concerning great whites and other apex predators.

Aboard the OCEARCH research vessel, the team travels the world and collects data including reproductive conditions of females, body measurements for comparative studies around the world, muscle biopsies to identify key life stages, and more. Led by founding chairman and expedition leader Chris Fischer, OCEARCH is able to bring live shark tracking straight to your fingertips via the Internet and their Global Shark Tracker. Follow majestic creatures such as Katherine, the 14-foot great white who has swum over 15,000 miles in the two years since she was tagged, or cruise alongside Sam Houston, the 10-foot long tiger shark tagged off the coast of Port Aransas last summer. OCEARCH plays a critical role in providing scientific information necessary in tracking and measuring shark species across the globe, helping to lead and better steer conservation efforts.

Some of the first identified sharks that OCEARCH ever tracked were tagged by Corpus Christi’s own Dr. Greg Stunz of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Stunz was one of the first grantees to benefit from the Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Care, Conservation, and Research Fund. Stunz’s main project focus was to gain a better understanding of shark migration patterns in the Gulf of Mexico. We’re excited that our funding could positively affect members of the local Corpus Christi community, both human and otherwise.

Take a dive into the underwater world of Saving Sharks this October and together, we can join fins and work to conserve these beautiful and fascinating fish!

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