Though sharks are often the “bad guys” in myths and movies, the reality is that a healthy ocean depends on sharks.
Unfortunately, more than 30% of all shark species are threatened with extinction.
“Simply put, a healthy ocean depends on sharks, and an ocean out of balance impacts us all,” Hap Fatzinger, director of the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, said in a release. “The North Carolina Aquariums are committed to learning more about sharks, protecting them and supporting the delivery of science-based facts to the public.”
Research scientists at N.C. Aquariums are working to learn more about sharks and make sure people know the facts, according to the aquarium.
Some of their work will be included on Discovery’s Shark Week and NatGeo’s Sharkfest 2021 this week. “Shark Gangs” premiered July 7 and will be shown again on Disney+ and Nat Geo WILD. “Ninja Sharks: Mutant Rising” premiers 8 a.m. Sunday on Discovery.
Fatzinger and other aquarium researchers have been working since 2016 to answer questions about sand tiger shark populations found around the many shipwrecks off the state’s coast.
The aquariums’ conservation scientists have focused their efforts on the acoustic tagging of sand tiger sharks and the Spot A Shark USA community science initiative, using diver photographs and special software to identify sharks through individual spot patterns.
The data provide critical information about the sharks’ movements and use of wrecks, which helps with ways to protect the vulnerable animals and their habitats.
“The North Carolina. Aquariums’ research has revealed new information about female sand tiger sharks returning to our state’s shipwrecks, a behavior known as site fidelity,” said Fatzinger. “This suggests the shipwrecks’ are important habitats for these migratory sharks. But many questions remain about mating, pupping and residency patterns and we look forward to learning more to help shark species around the world.”
There is a new art installation open until Oct. 4 at the Aquarium at Fort Fisher’s Spadefish Gallery showcases the award-winning underwater photography of scuba diver and shark advocate Tanya Houppermans. Her images feature sand tiger sharks swimming amongst North Carolina shipwrecks. Houppermans is a regular contributor to the Spot A Shark USA project.