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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Mystic offers a different kind of shark week

Public forum on Sunday

shark GIF by Nat Geo Wild Myths about sharks, unfortunately, are more bountiful that than the facts. One main truth; however, remains about sharks: their risk for extinction.

On Sunday, July 14, Mystic Aquarium will be joining fellow members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in celebrating Shark & Ray Awareness Day in support of the AZA’s Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) Program. 

While it is true that sharks are impressive hunters and predators, the sad fact remains that these magnificent creatures are threatened. 

“People are fascinated by sharks and rays,” said Katie Cubina, Senior Vice President of Mission Programs at Mystic Aquarium. “We proudly care for a diversity of sharks and rays that amaze our guests and serve as ambassadors to their wild counterparts, carrying the message of conservation. It is our responsibility to turn that fascination into action toward conservation.”

Mystic Aquarium will be offering the following activities and more in its Main Gallery from 10:00am-2:00pm on Sunday, July 14 to help connect children and families to these amazing creatures: 
  •  Amazing Shark Adaptations –After 400 million years, shark species have evolved diverse physical and behavioral adaptations that allow them to serve a critical role in marine food webs; making them vital to a healthy marine ecosystem. 
  • Ocean Food Chains – Explore the feeding habits of sharks and rays.
  • Shark Trivia – A test of guests’ shark and ray knowledge. Shark experts will receive a special Shark Ambassador Certificate!

Guests are invited to take photos during Shark & Ray Awareness Day at Mystic Aquarium and share them socially using #WeAreShark.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species has estimated that a quarter of all shark species are threatened with extinction due to overfishing and climate change. Complicating matters, sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they are slow to reach maturity and produce very few offspring.

“There are over 1,200 species of sharks and rays,” added Cubina. “The conservation status of many species is unknown – there simply isn’t enough data.  We need to double down on our research and conservation efforts to ensure their survival into the future. “

Cubina herself has testified in both Rhode Island and Connecticut for legislation to ban the trade of shark fins; a critical concern for species conservation.

Fortunately, our understanding of sharks and rays is ever-evolving, with new species being discovered and described all the time. However, there is still much to be learned to properly support effective, science-based conservation for all species.

“Scientists at Mystic Aquarium conduct research specific to sharks and shark conservation,” added Cubina. “These research projects are aimed at reducing by-catch, understanding shark’s role as apex predators in the ecosystem and establishing marine protected areas to ensure healthy and resilient ocean ecosystems in the face of climate change.”

Shark & Ray Awareness  Day activities at Mystic Aquarium and locations around the world represent a united effort to raise awareness and encourage action, which seek to engage the general public and inspire individuals to take positive conservation actions to protect the oceans.

Mystic Aquarium is not alone. Sharks and shark conservation is a top priority for the AZA with its more than 200 member institutions serving nearly 200 million guests annually. 

AZA’s SAFE initiative is an enormous, coordinated conservation effort designed to use the resources and expertise of accredited zoos and aquariums to save some of the world’s most critically endangered animals from extinction.