Bio Pic SHARKS

Celebrating Shark Awareness Day 2022

Megan Seltzer

14 Jul 2022

WHY CELEBRATE SHARK AWARENESS DAY?

When many people first hear of 'World Shark Day', initial thoughts often coincide with a day that spreads awareness on the dangers of sharks and how to protect yourself in case you ever come across one. Whilst this is important to bear in mind when swimming near sharks, it's not the first thing that should be known about sharks as wild animals (we blame Hollywood for this one).

Sharks are extremely important to ocean ecosystems and with 3 new species discovered each year, we are continuously learning more about new behaviors. Having survived through five mass extinctions, these animals can date back to nearly 450 million years ago.

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THREATS

Astonishingly, the ocean's most feared predator is also one of the most endangered. With over 1,000 species of shark and ray recorded to date, 6% of these are endangered, including the angel shark, great hammerhead shark, whale sharks, and even great white sharks.

Shark Awareness day occurs on the 14th July every year, highlighting the plight sharks face as a result of humans and the changing environment. You should know now that you have a 1 in 4 million chance of being bitten by a shark which equates to around 10 people a year but humans kill 100 million sharks every year. 

Shark Fin Trade

The growing trade in shark fins –often used to make an expensive Asian soup—has become a serious threat to many shark species. Around 100 million sharks may be killed annually, often targeted for their fins. This practice affects many different shark species, including whale sharks and hammerheads.

Overfishing

The over fishing of sharks happens because of the huge demand—mainly for shark fins—and a lack of management to ensure shark fisheries are sustainable. Some species, such as spiny dogfish and porbeagle, are targeted primarily for their meat.

Bycatch 

Many shark species are often caught in fishing nets which will later be discarded as unwanted catch. 

Reef Shark, Indian Ocean

WHALE SHARKS

Whale sharks are one of the most fascinating species, with the largest confirmed specimen measuring just over 40 ft in length and tipping the scales at more than 20 tonnes, there is no bigger fish in the ocean than the whale shark.

Although usually solitary creatures that spend most of their lives in the open ocean, these huge filter-feeding animals are known to congregate in significant numbers at a few select locations around the world, including DjiboutiSt Helena, and the Galápagos Islands.

The Mozambique Channel between Madagascar and Mozambique is a global hotspot for these threatened sharks. However, this species has dealt with many population threats, with plastic pollution, boat collisions, bycatch, and climate change targeting the species dramatically. 

 

Blacktip sharks, Albert Kok, Wikimedia Commons

HOW NWS SUPPORTS SHARK CONSERVATION

In 2019, NWS had the honour of supporting the Madagascar Whale Shark Project alongside founder Stella Diamant. 

The first study of whale sharks in Nosy Be, Madagascar, took place between 2005-2007 when a publication on whale shark occurrence was reported. With regular sightings occurring, tourism based around these sharks began to boom in 2011. Stella started the project in 2014, after spotting her first whale shark in Nosy Be, inspired by the lack of work undertaken to establish population size along with the lack of protection for the sharks as a species.

Co-supervised by whale shark expert Dr. Simon Pierce, the beginning of a data-driven collection by the project began in 2016. Now to date, over 366 individual whale sharks have been identified in Madagascar by the project and a code of conduct and education programme have also been initiated. 

 

 

Ningaloo Swimming With Whale Shark

The three-month whale shark tourism season in Nosy Be, North West Madagascar, has been valued at $1.5 million USD to the local economy. With the region preparing for the return of tourists following Covid-19, a study revealed the economic benefit that whale sharks provide.

The code of conduct created by the Madagascar Whale Shark Project minimises any possible impacts of tourism on these sharks as well as improving client satisfaction. The local operators who have adopted this code respect the shark's behaviour, allowing them to feed whilst offering clients a life-changing, respectful experience. 

Stella Diamant With Tagged Shark Copyright Simon J Pierce, Www Simonjpierce Dot Com (2)

If you’d like to travel to Nosy Be and take to the waters with the world’s largest fish, you can speak to one of our Destination Specialists to start designing your own bespoke safari to this burgeoning whale shark destination. With Natural World Safaris, enthusiasts can also embark on a whale shark safari to St Helena or join marine photographer Joshua Barton on a free diving trip to Djibouti

BOOK YOUR whale shark SAFARI

View our whale shark safaris, or talk to one of our specialists for more details on whale sharks. Please note we recommend a budget of from £7,000 / $10,000 USD per person for our style of trip to this destination.

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