July 14 is Shark Awareness Day, and SeaWorld wants to use the opportunity to debunk some myths about sharks. Namely, that they’re out to get us.
There are more than 500 different shark species, and according to experts, the overwhelming majority are harmless to humans.
“In general, you don’t really have to worry about that shark coming to get you,” said SeaWorld Aquarium Supervisor Mike Hopkins. “They’re probably more afraid of you than you are of them.”
There has been a recent spate of shark attacks on the East Coast and a Northern California man was just released from the hospital after an attack off Monterey. Hopkins said the increase in these types of encounters is likely because there are more people in the water.
“We’re discovering that it’s not – ‘hey, I wanna eat you.’ It’s – ‘you’re invading my territory. I’m protecting what I have.’ All of us would protect our home as well,” he said.
A number of sharks make their home off the coast of San Diego. This time of year, you’ll find a variety of smaller species, including leopard sharks. The pregnant females incubate their developing embryos in the warm waters off La Jolla Shores.
“Take all the pictures you want,” Hopkins said. “As long as you don’t grab them or touch them or anything, they’re gonna leave you alone.”
There are also much larger sharks along our coast. Hopkins said, “if you see one, count yourself lucky.”
Hopkins said sharks are a vital part of our environment.
“Sharks are actually protecting us by helping us keep our fish supplies in check.”
However, many species are endangered.
“Over 100-million sharks per year are taken not only for their fins, but now for their meat,” Hopkins said.
Shark Awareness Day was created to educate people about the issues impacting these animals. Instead of just one day, SeaWorld is dedicating an entire week to raising awareness about sharks. You can hear from shark specialists, meet the park’s new baby bamboo sharks and get an up-close look at real shark teeth. Most importantly, you can learn about why these animals are so important to our oceans and what you can do to help protect them.
“We need them out there,” Hopkins said.