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Saving Sharks

Another Shark Week just ended, and its no question as to why the Discovery Channel chooses to dedicate a week every summer to spreading awareness of these amazing animals.

Sharks are some of the most iconic inhabitants of our vast oceans. They are mysterious and powerful creatures that roam the shallow reefs and the deep open waters; and with species that range from 7 inches to 45 feet long. Portrayed as fearsome predators by the media and Hollywood, these animals are often misunderstood by the public and only continue to amaze researchers with new findings.

One local shark species, the leopard shark. Photo credit to Kent Treptow.

With more than 440 species of sharks that span the lengths of every ocean, there is much to learn about the species themselves as well as how to best manage their populations. Sharks have recently come to the forefront of many conservation efforts as their populations are being severely affected by the actions of us humans. The strongest threat is the international demand for their fins and meat, where it is estimated that up to 100 million sharks are killed a year. Since sharks are apex predators, the consequences trickle down the food web and negatively impacts entire ecosystems. Protecting species like sharks takes collaboration between government bodies, private organizations, researchers, and individuals all working together and doing their part to find the best way to protect the species and their habitats.

Shark Lab Director Chris Lowe with the confiscated jaws. Photo from Shark Lab.

CSU Long Beach’s Shark Lab is a local group of researchers that has become internationally recognized for their work on shark conservation. Originally founded in 1966, they focus on studying the ecology of marine animals, human impacts on the ocean, technological innovation, and education. The Lab’s emphasis on education and community outreach is a quality shared by OC Habitats and has lead to a helpful partnership as we create our own education curriculum. We were lucky enough to receive shark jaws that were confiscated by US Fish and Wildlife in 2019, an unfortunate incident that Dr. Chris Lowe, the Lab’s Director, decided to turn into a beneficial one by distributing them for educational purposes.

Organizations like the Shark Lab and OC Habitats are always in the business of connecting with the community and educating them on how we can do our part towards wildlife conservation. To do your part, you can:

  1. Educate yourself and others!

  2. Eat sustainable seafood! Programs like Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch help guide you towards the most eco-friendly options and if you are looking to eat out, the Surfrider Foundation can show you "ocean friendly" restaurants in your area!

  3. Avoid shark products! Sharks and rays are caught for more than just food, and can be found in personal care products, supplements, and even pet products -- so do your research before you shop.

Click here for more information on the Shark Lab and their work and resources on beach safety and shark education.

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