Shark Awareness Day - 2017

Let’s face it, sharks get a bad reputation. They are vilified in the media in both the news and entertainment, but they aren’t nearly as destructive as they are portrayed. According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), in 2016 there were only 150 reported shark-to-human interactions. A low number when you consider how many hours humans spend in the water per year.

Not only are sharks not the enemy, they are actually very important to the environment. Sharks are profoundly responsible for maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem. As an apex predator they control species’ populations which maintains the ecosystem’s balance and diversity. They also provide a food source for scavengers and keep prey species healthy by taking out the sick and weak individuals. Misunderstanding the role sharks play in their ecosystem and interpreting them as a threat can create problems not only for the environment, but also for the economy that depends on that environment.  

Today we celebrate sharks, especially those who live in the Pacific Northwest. Of the known 400 + species of sharks, approximately 30 species either live or have been seen in the coastal waters of Washington State (most preferring deeper waters), and 11 have been spotted in the Puget Sound!

For Shark Awareness Day we picked 3 of our favorite locals to highlight:

Bluntnose Sixgill Shark (Hexanchua griseus)

The bluntnose sixgill shark is one of the largest sharks that inhabit Washington waters reaching up to13ft. Unlike most shark species which have only five gills, the bluntnose sixgill gets its name for having six. 

Photo by: Laura James

Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)

The basking shark is the second largest fish in the world averaging 30 ft in length. Despite their intimidating size, basking sharks are filter feeders consuming zooplankton near the surface. Though rare in the Puget Sound, they have been spotted occasionally.

Photo by Chris Gotschalk

Thresher Shark (Aolpias vulpinus)

The thresher shark is known for it’s unusually long tail and purple/grey coloring. Their tails can average the same length as their body, with a long pointed end which is utilized to stun their prey. The thresher shark is one of few sharks that can maintain their body temperatures, often able to keep themselves warmer in cold climates.

Photo by: Thomas Alexander