Yesterday was my big shark event at the marine centre. After a trip to the Shark Trust to pick up leaflets and posters and much rushing around getting everything ready, it began. The nice weather drew people to the beach and before long we had a lot of people in the centre, all learning about sharks.

The aim of the day was to get people to know a bit more about sharks, to take them on a journey beyond the teeth to show that sharks are incredible, complex and intelligent creatures, not mindless killers. We did this using shark related activities to engage people. Outside the centre we got people to guess how long different shark species were, before then showing them how long the shark actually was using a piece of string, so they can get a sense of the size of these creatures. A short true or false quiz involving running from one point to another, got people active whilst also learning about sharks. Another activity demonstrated how a basking shark feeds, using a sieve, some rice and some water to demonstrate how such a huge creature can sustain itself on such small prey! Inside the centre we got people to draw sharks and to make their very own basking shark pen pots. Meanwhile a presentation on sharks took place showing some of their cool biology, facts about them and information on British sharks.

We wanted to make people more aware of these amazing creatures. Despite having so many species of shark, since records began in 1847, there has not been a single death in the UK caused by a shark.

Yet despite this, even in the UK the shark has a negative public image. Whilst researching the event I came across lot’s of interesting statistics. One was that in America in 1996, 44,000 people were injured by toilets (those vicious things), sharks injured a measly 14 people (National Geographic)! It is estimated every year that we kill over 100 million sharks (Shark Trust). Many of these are caught only for their fins or accidentally as by catch. Because of this huge number sharks are in trouble! Sharks killed 3 humans in 2014, which is a small number when compared to the 1.3 million  people who died from road injuries in 2014 (WHO). In the natural world bees and snakes are much more likely to kill you! Anyway on a more cheery note…. Sharks play a key role in the health of our oceans, regulating prey populations, keeping ecosystems stable. Without them dramatic changes called trophic cascades can happen, which potentially could be bad news for us.

Education is key to protecting sharks and ensuring the health of our oceans. To do this we need to turn the tide and change public perceptions, reversing our fearful prejudices. To see sharks creatures that have been on the earth for 450 million years are worthy of our respect. Want to do more to help sharks? Take a look at the Wildlife Trusts Ocean Giants campaign and the Shark Trusts No Limits campaign.

Many thanks to the Shark Trust for their leaflets and posters!