Tag Archives: marine education

Ultimate Sharks Facts Australia

Hammerhead

Contrary to popular belief, mainly brought about by scary shark movies, you have more chance of being killed by a coconut than a shark! Over-fishing and unsustainable practices are causing shark populations to decline worldwide. Sharks play an important role in our oceans and on our majestic reefs and we should all be concerned about their numbers declining. We believe that the big danger is not sharks; the big danger is shark extinction.

 

 Sharks of Australia

 There are considered to be around 180 species of sharks in Australian waters and 400 species worldwide. In fact, around 50 species of shark live right here, off the Eastern Coast of Queensland. Eastern Australia’s grey nurse sharks are considered critically endangered and school sharks (sometimes known as flake in fish and chip shops) and scalloped hammerheads are on the endangered shark list too.

 

Sharks Commonly Found off Australia

Great White, Port Jackson, Thresher, Zebra Shark, Tiger Shark, Tasselled Wobbegong, Whale Shark, Oceanic Whitetip, Blacktip Reef, Grey Nurse, Bull Shark, Bronze Whaler, Great Hammerhead, Blind Shark, Pygmy Shark

 

Why Do We Need Sharks?

 There is no doubt that we need sharks. As apex predators, sharks help maintain the balance of life in the sea. They are a vital part of the food chain, controlling mid-sized predators and allowing small reef fish to thrive. Small reef fish take care of our amazing coral reef, therefore sharks help keep coral reef healthy. Without sharks, we would be denied the pleasure of exploring amazing underwater habitats such as the world’s largest natural wonder, Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. The global economic impact on tourism and of declining fish stocks would be huge. So, have no doubt, we need sharks!

 

Why Are Shark Populations in Decline?

Shark populations are in decline globally and in Australian waters. 100 million sharks are killed in worldwide fisheries each year and habitat degradation, pollution and climate change are also impacting international shark populations. Controversial shark nets and drum lines (designed to protect human populations) add further to the decline.

Sharks live a long time (20-30 years), grow slowly and take a long time to mature and reach reproductive age. This means that even if we slow the decline in shark populations now, they will take a long time to recover.

 

Sharks Facts QuizShould I Be Scared of Sharks in Australia?

No! We don’t think you should be scared of sharks. The ocean is their home and when we visit their home we need to be very aware and respectful of them.

  • On average, one person a year is killed in a shark attack in Australia.

To put things in perspective…

  • 5 people die from falling out of bed
  • 10 people are struck down by lightning
  • 1,100 are killed on our roads

 

Ultimate Shark Facts 

Check out our ultimate shark facts and discover how much you really know about sharks.

  • The largest species of shark is the whale shark
  • Baby sharks are called pups
  • Shark bones are made of cartilage
  • Many sharks have multiple rows of sharp teeth – they can grow 35, 000 in a lifetime
  • Shark skin feels like sandpaper
  • The collective noun for a shark is a Shiver (or School, Shoal)
  • The fastest shark in the ocean is the Shortfin Mako Shark (up to 74k an hour)
  • The smallest species of shark is the Dwarf Lantern Shark (smaller than a human hand)
  • Sharks have eyelids but they do not blink
  • Sharks do not see in colour
  • 10% of shark species are bioluminescent – they light up in the dark
  • 180 species of shark live off the coast of Australia – 400 species worldwide
  • Bull sharks can live in fresh and salt water
  • Some sharks lay eggs (oviparous) others give birth to live young (viviparous), and some are a combination of these two, they start life inside their mother as an egg, hatch inside her and then are born live (ovoviviparous)
  • Egg laying sharks lay egg cases known as mermaid’s purses
  • Unlike humans, sharks breathe through gills, so their nostrils are purely dedicated to smelling
  • Sharks are able to detect blood from 5 km
  • Sharks can identify which of their two nostrils have picked up a scent – enabling them to determine the direction to swim to find food
  • Some species of shark can survive for up to 3 months between meals
  • Sharks can sense vibrations from 3 kilometres away

 

What Can I Do to Help Protect Sharks?

  • Educate yourself and your friends
  • Share your love of sharks on your social media channels
  • Join a volunteer shark conservation organisation like sharkconservationorg.au, marineconservation.org.au, seashepherd.com.au (make a donation if you can)
  • Join a beach clean or just clean as you go!
  • Buy sustainable seafood and check restaurants have done so. Avoid flake at the Fish & Chip shop as it may be endangered shark
  • Ask politicians to support ocean acidification research

Ocean Life Education is passionate about protecting all marine animals and focusing on the important role sharks play in our oceans.  We aim to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the most feared fish in the sea.

Check out our Shark Discovery Program for more information on how to inspire kids to love and respect sharks: www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/programs/holiday-program/ 

 

The High Price of Peace of Mind

We Aussies love our beaches – in the warmer months the coastline has a magnetic pull, drawing us to the sand, sea and surf in our thousands.

But while the thought of a refreshing ocean dip might be appealing, the concept of potentially coming face to face with one of our most feared predators has prompted officials to take drastic action.

Shark nets have been deployed off the shoreline of the east coast for more than 80 years.  But they offer a false sense of security.  Stretching less than 200 metres long and extending down only 6 metres, these mesh barriers are at best a deterrent and certainly don’t make beaches attack proof.

Sharks can get under, over or around them, and as it turns out, more are caught on the shore side of the net when they’re heading back out to sea, than when they’re swimming towards shore.

The holes in the mesh are around 50 centimetres across – large enough to let small animals pass through, but the perfect size for trapping bigger species.

Turtles, dolphins and rays are common victims of the nets – becoming entangled and drowning or starving to death.  A major concern is the ensnaring of humpback whales on their journey back to Antarctica after their annual breeding season in the tropics.

Calves in particular are easy prey – in just over a decade 55 have been caught in the shark nets, including one off Noosa in late September this year.  Another swam down to Sydney with the remnants of a Queensland net still wrapped around its mouth.

But the toll on the animals targeted by these barriers is far greater. In 2017 alone, more than 500 sharks were caught in the nets off Queensland – 377 died, more than 100 others had to be euthanised – only 20 were released.

Amongst the victims were grey nurse sharks which are classified as critically endangered and pose no real threat to us.  The vast majority of species share the sea quite peacefully with people – only a handful of sharks are responsible for fatal attacks on humans.

Just to put it all into perspective, on average one person a year is killed by a shark in Australia, as opposed to 5 dying from falling out of bed, 10 struck down by lightning or perhaps the most sobering, more than 1,100 taken on our roads.

Shark attacks are extremely rare and there is no scientific evidence to prove that nets protect humans.  What we do know is the attempt to keep us safe is killing marine life indiscriminately.

Removing so many animals, including apex predators, will have an impact on  local marine ecosystems – but we won’t be able to calculate that cost until far too late.

Marine biologist, Holly Richmond, feels so passionately about the need to remove all nets, she’s created a video:  www.thesharknetfilm.com

Ocean Life Education is passionate about protecting all marine animals and focusing on the important role sharks play in our oceans.  For more information about our programs including our Shark Discovery presentation visit: https://www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/programs/

 

Celebrating SeaWeek

There is one time of the year we look forward to more than any other at Ocean Life Education – when collectively as a nation, we take the opportunity to pay homage to the sea.

SeaWeek is Australia’s major public awareness campaign centred around our oceans – a chance to turn our attention on what the water does for us and what we in turn can do for it.

This year’s theme was ‘The Ocean made Earth Habitable’, focusing on how the majority of oxygen in our atmosphere has been produced by microscopic sea creatures during photosynthesis.  Thanks to their contribution over thousands of years, life on land was able to develop.

And the impact is still ongoing today – with more than 70 percent of the planet covered in water, it plays a major role in many aspects of our daily lives.

Australia has one of the largest ocean territories in the world – it drives our climate and weather and provides valuable resources. Marine animals and plants are found in medicines that are used to fight cancer, arthritis and heart disease.

On average, we each consume around 25 kilograms of seafood every year, harvesting more than 150, 000 tonnes of fish annually.

Eighty-five percent of Australians live within 50 kilometres of our vast shoreline – drawn to the water not only for food but fun as well. We have 10,000 beaches spread around our 50,000 kilometres of coast and almost 3 million of us own a boat allowing us to explore beyond the shallows.

But as we become more globally aware of climate change and the impact our modern lifestyle is having on the oceans, it’s time for us to breathe new life into the part of our planet that made all of this possible in the first place.

Ocean Life Education is dedicated to promoting the preservation of our marine environment.  Our Human Impact Program takes a close look at the effect we have on the world’s waterways and, most importantly, how we can make a change for the better to sustain our seas for generations to come.

To find out more and to become part of the solution, visit https://www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/programs/

Ocean to Outback – Sights, Sounds and Smells of the Sea Go Bush

Considering they’re very basic creatures, sea stars have some pretty amazing abilities (like regrowing their own leg if they lose one!) but they don’t normally travel hundreds of kilometres inland… until now.

With a little assistance from Ocean Life Education, our Blue Linckia’s, along with the rest of our marine life menagerie, have temporarily migrated away from the coast to help students who rarely get to see the sea understand more about the challenges these animals face.

In a road trip lasting 3 days and covering close to 500 kilometres, Ocean Life Education is making sure children in Blackbutt, Nanango and Kingaroy don’t miss out on the chance to touch and learn about our wonderful animal ambassadors.

The Ocean to Outback initiative is supported by the State Government through its Advance Queensland Engaging Science Grant.

Why go to such extreme lengths to facilitate these encounters?  Oceans cover almost three quarters of our planet and produce more than half of the oxygen on earth while absorbing harmful carbon dioxide.

Ocean currents also move such a large body water between the equator and poles, they help to regulate the global climate which impacts all of us – even those that live well beyond the shoreline.  Keeping the oceans healthy is in everyone’s best interest.

But travelling with a crew of sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, hermit crabs and a shark is not without its challenges as water quality and oxygen levels are vital to their survival, especially in the hostile bush environment.

One thousand litres of salt water have been transported along with the animals to ensure they are stress free on their little adventure.

But all the planning, all the logistics have been worth it just to see the excitement on the faces of a whole new batch of ocean lovers, who may rarely hear the waves crash or smell the salt in the air but know the importance of caring about the underwater world – even this far from the coast.