July 12, 2016
Saving Sharks from Extinction
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas Joins Fellow AZA-Accredited Institutions to
Raises Awareness About Shark Conservation
Shark Awareness Day - Thursday, July 14
(New Orleans) - Sharks play a vital role in top-down maintenance of ocean ecosystems around the world yet many species of sharks, rays, and skates are vulnerable, threatened, or endangered. On Thursday, July 14, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, along with fellow Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institutions, are raising awareness about the challenges shark populations face in the wild.
"Every day across the world, 200,000 sharks are killed due to unregulated fishing," said Rich Toth, Audubon Aquarium's Managing Director. "Sharks play an important role in the food chain and this staggering figure could have devastating long-term effects on the health of our oceans. As conservationists, it's our responsibility to learn about this crisis and to do something about it."
Recently, Audubon partnered with OCEARCH to increase awareness of shark conservation locally in New Orleans. OCEARCH's shark tagging vessel, made famous in the TV show Shark Wranglers, was docked outside the Aquarium and open to tours.
Toth adds, "It's breathtaking to consider how much there is about our oceans that has yet to be scientifically researched. When you also learn the alarming statistics, it becomes clear our oceans are imperiled on several fronts."
According to AZA, the main threats to shark species are:
- Overfishing, accidental catch in fishing nets, and the effects of climate change on their habitat and food supply.
- Human consumption. Sharks are targeted for their fins - notably for shark-fin soup in Asia - and for their meat. Their skin is used for leather, and cartilage and liver oils are used in pharmaceuticals.
"Sharks suffer from misperceptions that challenge our collective ability to see them as animals critical to the health of our oceans," said Audubon Aquarium of the Americas Director of Animal Husbandry Beth Firchau. "Without sharks, our ocean ecosystems will be knocked out of balance, having devastating effects on fish and shellfish species so important to our way of life in Louisiana. Good fisheries management ensures that shark numbers won't continue to decline."
Audubon Aquarium is encouraging the public to take the following actions:
- Help spread the word. Let friends and family know that sharks need help using the hashtag #savingspecies.
- Support organizations that support shark conservation - this could be as simple as visiting an AZA-accredited aquarium.
- Support sustainable seafood and the ban on shark finning. Visit Audubon's sustainable seafood program Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) to learn more.
Visitors to Audubon Aquarium can learn more at a special shark chat and feed on July 14 at 1 p.m. in front of the 400,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico habitat - home to sand tiger, nurse and brown sharks.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Advance tickets are recommended and can be purchased by visiting AudubonInstitute.org or at any Audubon Nature Institute attractions. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is located at 1 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130.
Audubon Nature Institute
Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Special Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.