Shark Week isn’t just on TV. The popular Discovery Channel celebration of the ocean’s most notorious predator is also happening at Sea Life Arizona in Tempe.
“A lot of times Shark Week has a negative connotation toward sharks,” said Malori Heppler, spokesperson for Sea Life Arizona. “At Sea Life we’re trying to show that these creatures are misunderstood and really aren’t as dangerous as you might think.”
To celebrate sharks and bring attention to conservation issues Sea Life is having Shark Talks, posting facts about sharks on tanks, offering a shark craft in the play area and even hosting a shark-related scavenger hunt with the grand prize being a chance to help with a shark feeding at the aquarium.
Shark Week also highlights Sea Life’s new Shark Discovery exhibit, which will be in Tempe through the end of the year. The exhibit tells about different types of sharks and shows off their size, but also has a portion that shows unlikely things that are more dangerous than sharks like vending machines or coconuts.
Greg Collinske, an aquarist for two years who takes care of the zebra shark and the brown sharks at the aquarium, said they swim with the sharks a few times each week to clean out the tank and have never had any incidents.
“It’s usually pretty peaceful,” Collinske said. “You get some close encounters with them, but we’ve never even had anything close to a bite here. Sharks in general are really smart animals. I think people look at them more as a predator than one of the largest and smartest fish out there.”
Sea Life Arizona hopes their Shark Week will also bring attention to the issue of finning. Fishers will capture sharks, cut off their fins and throw the rest of the shark back in the ocean. The fins are used to make a Chinese delicacy, shark fin soup.
“There are five or six restaurants here in the Valley that sell shark fin soup,” Heppler said. “We just want to create some awareness of what a big issue it is. It’s more popular in Asian countries but it’s amazing to know it happens here in the states as well.”
Shark Week will continue through the weekend. Sea Life will have a shark feeding at 2 p.m. on Sunday and will also have face painting for the kids. For more information on Sea Life Arizona, visit www.visitsealife.com/Arizona or call (480) 478-7600.
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