Saturday and Sunday, February 16 – 17, Shark Extravaganza will take place with special events and activities from 10 am to 3 pm, although the zoo will be open from 9:30 am to 4 pm on both days. The public will be able to observe and learn about sharks with the following activities: a shark feed, divers swimming with sharks, 17 sharks will be available for viewing, including a 9 foot 400 pound lemon shark, nurse sharks, a carpet shark, and more. Kris Sherman, spokesperson for point defiance zoo and aquarium, explained activities that will take place in more detail: “We will have a number of activities that will be of interest to the kids and families. On Saturday, at 11 am we will have a shark feed in the South Pacific Aquarium and Sunday at 11 am we will have our divers swimming with sharks in the South Pacific Aquarium.
In addition, there will be number of games and activities aimed at kids and families; a shark jaw food toss (bean bag toss) to discover what sharks eat, “to breathe or not to breathe” which is to teach people why some sharks can never stop moving, we will have an event to dress up why sharks have camouflage, puzzles about sharks; people can discover why sharks are special, “eat like a shark” is kind of fun as people can try their hand at a shark’s jaw and see how much food is caught, and there is a shark dating game, a fun thing designed to show how sharks find their mates. There are quite a number of shark themed activities in addition to 17 sharks swimming that are fun and mesmerizing on their own.”
When asked what a shark feed was, Dave Smith, senior staff biologist for the aquarium, explained: “Something that our guests and visitors observe through windows above water there is a staff biologist feeding each individual shark with a 6 or 7 foot pole. Sharks are trained to station in aquarium and return with the feed and pole 30 to 45 minutes. The shark feeding is narrated by an educator that can answer questions and can see what people are seeing in tank as feed occurs.”
Kris commented on what she thinks of Shark Extravaganza: “A couple of things: people are always fascinated by sharks so we are highlighting them for a weekend event during President’s Day when people and families have time off to look at the zoo. They not only look at 17 sharks but can also see what else we offer. A couple reasons we are celebrating sharks in particular: people have a fascination about them, they are a little mysterious to other people, they move interestingly in water, and the fear factor that everyone has this prickling of the skin because they’re sharks. One thing we do through the education program is talk to people on how sharks move in water and how they’re not naturally aggressive and the education component of the threat to sharks in the world.”
Dave commented: “Sharks are obviously a key predator in eco systems. A lot of people just think they are in tropical areas of the world, being harvested faster than can be produced, by throwing one out of balance. It affects all of us when sharks are removed from oceans as they can damage reefs and control species on reefs and this occur several years in Hawaii. Tiger sharks were removed and were killed a short time later. The white tip reef shark started decimating by eating smaller fish which was a cascading problem so we educate guests as it’s an important role shark’s play and why we must protect them.
Threats to habitat like oil spills and other environmental catastrophes in our oceans (shark are over fished) and very long lived. They do not reproduce as quickly, so if you take one shark out of water; it’s a long time until another one is replaced due to overfishing shark finning.
Shark finning is illegal and in most places sharks are caught on a long fishing line with hundreds of hooks and are used to catch a lot of species; including sharks. Once the sharks are brought on a vessel, fins are cut off on the shark while the animal is alive. The shark is then thrown back in the water and dies a tragic death. These fins are used as cultural items as food items. It’s not good for the ecosystem and not for the animal. Not only is it done illegally, but without a lot of repercussions and quite damaging to the ecosystem.
We talk about sustainable sea food, which definitely has an educational component to it. It’s a great way for a staff biologist to inform people that are enjoying majestic animals.”
Dave commented on the best thing about Shark Extravaganza: “Sharks are the greatest things. People already have a strong attraction to these animals and can see them not as ferocious animals, they have a timid approach. There is this myth that they are killers. The scuba divers dive in front of the public in an underwater dive with gear and talk to the public while being under water. They answer questions and break down the myths of sharks being demonizing and killers. Scuba divers have nothing to be afraid of. The dive takes place on Sunday at 11 am.”
When asked if Shark Extravaganza has taken place before, Kris replied, “We traditionally have had something similar in August, when the Discovery Channel does shark programs on TV. As a result, August coincides with our shark week. There is a lot of interest with sharks at that time honestly; they have been so popular with the public that we thought we should have another one. The first one that we’ve had at this particular time of year but, President’s Day is a great weekend where families will be doing things and can come and enjoy other things at the zoo as well. We still have our two very growing frisky tiger cubs that people can see in addition to seeing animals (large and small). This just makes the zoo and aquarium such an amazing and wonderful place to visit. It will be 3 years in August that we have done the shark week in August.”
When asked who they recommended visit Shark Extravaganza, Dave replied, “It’s a great event for all ages across the board; someone who’s a little bit older, or maybe someone who’s seen it before and wants to again. We’re trying to break down myths about sharks and there are a lot of events that talks about humanizing sharks as not predators. I also recommend young kids as learning is always fun and they are fascinated with the divers interacting with the sharks. I recommend all ages across the board.”
Kris commented about two upcoming shark programs, one called “I-2-I Sharks!” and the other is called “Weekend Shark”. “Starting this summer, two diving with the shark programs will take place, one will be for noncertified divers where they’ll be able to get suited up and breathe surface supplied air while being under water observing sharks. The second piece of the program is where certified divers will get instruction and be guided into the aquarium by our very experienced certified divers and be diving in the aquarium with sharks. Both programs are exciting and give visitors an unparalled experience.
August 3, 2013 another shark event will take place similar to Shark Extravaganza, although this will be a one day event.”
For more information, please visit: http://www.pdza.org. “Personally, for me, sharks are my favorite animal. They inspired me to choose the career path that I did, and hopefully as a marine biologist, I can actually get the next generation inspired in conserving them as well,” Dave concluded.
By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com