Swim on into Shark Awareness Day

2019-07-12

SNA Promotion Calendar

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Boneless creatures with a mouthful of pointy teeth, sharks are a unique kind of fish that swim below the ocean waters. While often generalized as the blood-thirsty predator, sharks are incredibly important for ecosystems. Just in time for Shark Awareness Day on July 14, boost your knowledge on the importance of sharks!

Sharks are a barometer of ocean health. They help maintain the delicate balance in the food chain by hunting the sick and weak creatures, ensuring oceanic diversity. Through hunting, they force a shift in the prey’s spatial habitat, which alters the prey’s feeding strategy and diet. While this may seem insignificant, this helps maintain coral reef habitats and seagrass.

Despite their necessity to the ocean waters, shark populations are on the decline. When shark populations become too low, other large predatory fish, like groupers, become more prolific and feed on herbivores. Because fish like groupers can overfeed on herbivores, an imbalance is created and macroalgae can expand and coral cannot compete, thus weakening coral ecosystems. (Herbivores are needed to keep macroalgae in check.)

Shark populations are threatened by fisheries as their fins are an Asian delicacy. Sharks are often accidentally caught in fishing nets or gear and some countries have culled populations for fear of attacks. (But, you are more likely to get struck by lightning than bitten by a shark.) And, movies like “Jaws” have spurred the fear that sharks are scary creatures.

Sharks are actually pretty remarkable fish—and have been on the planet for about 455 million years. They can swim up to 46 mph in quick bursts and when flipped upside down, go into a kind of trance (called tonic immobility). There are around 440 known species of sharks and while some give birth to live young, others lay eggs!

While we don’t recommend putting on a fake fin and scaring your friends at the beach, we do recommend reading up on these fantastic creatures and celebrating them this month! This is just one of many celebrations happening in June and throughout the year. For more notable people, celebrations and ideas for your school nutrition operations, visit www.schoolnutrition.org/PromoCalendar.

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