On Saturday, July 15, Georgia Aquarium will be celebrating our many species of sharks on Shark Awareness Day! While many people think of scary predators with large, sharp teeth when it comes to sharks, most sharks are not threats to humans. In fact, many different species of sharks need our help and understanding.

How many different kinds of sharks are there?

Many immediately think of a great white shark when they think of sharks, but there are actually over 400 species of sharks in existence! These different kinds of sharks come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and can be found all over the world. No matter their size, sharks are extremely important to many different ecosystems and must be protected. Several different species of sharks are endangered due to a variety of threats.

What kinds of sharks can I see at Georgia Aquarium?

Georgia Aquarium is home to eight different species of sharks, including whale sharks, the largest fish in the world! You can see our whale sharks in the Ocean Voyager Built by The Home Depot gallery. Look for six other shark species in the same gallery: the blacktip reef shark, epaulette shark, sandbar shark, spotted wobbegong, tasseled wobbegong and zebra shark. Head over to our Coldwater Quest gallery to see our swellsharks as well.

What threats do sharks face in the wild?

Unfortunately, many species of sharks are currently endangered or threatened due to threats they face in the wild. One threat that kills millions of sharks each year is finning, a widespread practice that involves cutting off a shark’s fins and then throwing the shark’s body back into the ocean. The shark fins are then sold to be eaten as a delicacy. Shark finning is estimated to kill as many as 73 million sharks annually. Many sharks are also threatened by bycatch, when they are accidentally caught in fishing nets and lines. Many people are scared that sharks may hurt them, but humans actually pose a greater threat to sharks than sharks are to them.

How can I help protect sharks?

The first way to protect sharks is to learn about them. If more people learn about sharks, we can spread awareness for the need to protect them and reduce finning and other threats. You can also help by picking up trash whenever you are on the beach to prevent debris from ending up in the water. Sharks are an extremely important part of our ecosystem that must be protected.

What is Georgia Aquarium doing to help protect sharks?

Georgia Aquarium is working hard to protect and learn about sharks. As the only aquarium in the Western hemisphere with whale sharks, Georgia Aquarium engages in groundbreaking whale shark research and conservation. Having whale sharks at the Aquarium enables us to observe them on a daily basis and perform research by recording their behavior and studying the chemistry of their blood. Georgia Aquarium researchers also complete regular field research by using satellite tags, aerial surveys and photo identification software to track and study whale shark behaviors.

Whale sharks are not the only sharks that Georgia Aquarium studies. Georgia Aquarium’s affiliate in St. Augustine, Florida, Marineland Dolphin Adventure, has a large population of sand tiger sharks. At Marineland Dolphin Adventure, researchers work hard to study sand tiger sharks and their reproductive habits. These sand tiger sharks are also part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. Through this program, AZA works with Georgia Aquarium to oversee population management of sand tiger sharks and collaborate on conservation of sand tiger sharks.

How can I celebrate Shark Awareness Day on July 15?

Often misunderstood, sharks are vital to our world’s oceans. Every kind of shark plays an important part in its ecosystem and needs our help. On Shark Awareness Day this July 15, learn all about the many different kinds of amazing sharks and what you can do to protect them!

For more information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org