The myth of a bloodthirsty predator is dispelled at the Primorsky Aquarium

The myth of a bloodthirsty predator is dispelled at the Primorsky Aquarium

The environmental event called Shark Day was held at the Primorsky Aquarium on 14 July. The event organizers suggested young visitors and their parents to complete an educational quest to find out if the shark is man’s friend.

“The main aim of this environmental education tour is to destroy the myth that any shark represents a deadly danger to humans. We want to challenge the popular misconception so that people will bring an end to killing both dangerous and non-dangerous shark species,” says Natalia Miroshnikova, the Chief of the Department of Environmental Education at the Primorsky Aquarium.

If you want to stop being afraid of something, you should gain more information about it. That’s why at each station along the tour route the guides revealed some interesting facts about the sea dweller to the quest participants. They earned a ruby-red shark tooth for each successfully done task from the route card.  The “shark teeth” following the shape of real ones were 3D printed.

At the First Station the young visitors used face painting to look like sharks. The tour participants were told about specific features of different shark species. Here are some of them: the whale shark, the largest shark species, feeds on neither fish nor seals but plankton, and the dwarf lantern shark, the smallest species, reaches a maximum length of 18 cm.

At the Second Station the visitors got to know about shark evolution and those species that had lived on our planet many million years ago. The participants could also look through a microscope at the teeth found on the coast of Russky Island. They belonged to the sharks which lived during the Mesozoic Era.

At the Third Station emphasis was placed on the relationship between humans and sharks. The tour guides tried to dispel the myth about the excessive bloodthirstiness of the marine predator. On average, about 100 shark attacks on people occur each year, and one third of them is the result of human provoking: people grab sharks, harpoon them and even try to feed the fish. It must be stressed that not all attacks on human cause fatalities: for example, no people were killed by sharks last year, and the largest number of 17 deaths due to shark attacks was registered in 2000.

At the Fourth Station the visitors heard some ancient legends in which sharks were the main characters. Here the children were offered to make a friendly origami shark. At the Fifth Station the quest participants were introduced to the closest relative of the shark – the ray. Both sharks and rays are cartilaginous fish and differ much from bony fish. The participants got the task to distinguish a ray from a shark on the pictures printed on the route cards. And most of them failed to do it: they mixed a frilled shark up with a ray.

“I liked all the tasks in the quest. My brother and I have learnt a lot about sharks”, says Anastasia, one of the tour participants. “I didn’t know that there are some sharks very similar to rays and some rays similar to sharks. And we were told about the giant Megalodon shark that lived millions of years ago on Earth. Now we know for sure that the shark is not our enemy and it needs to be protected”.

At the end of the tour its participants took selfies against the tank with sharks to put the photos on social media with the hashtag # shark_ day_2018. They also received leaflets telling how to avoid a shark attack and what to do if attacked.

On completing the quest most of its participants admit that the threat posed by sharks is highly dramatized and if the shark is not man’s friend, at least it’s not man’s enemy.