Texas A&M: ‘Shark Week’ A Reminder That Conservation Efforts Are Essential

Texas A&M University Galveston Campus marine biologists said “Shark Week” programming is valuable to create awareness that shark numbers are declining, creating potentially negative changes in ecosystems.

David Wells is an associate professor in the Department of Marine Biology and head of the Shark Biology and Fisheries Science Lab at Texas A&M Galveston who studies the biology and ecology of bony fishes, rays and sharks. He said he appreciates Shark Week programming in terms of educating viewers, especially when there’s a focus on conservation messaging.

“Some of the story lines can be a bit misleading,” Wells said. “It can be hard for the public to filter what’s truly science for research purposes and what’s purely for entertainment.”

Wells and his colleagues at the Galveston campus, such as Philip Matich, an instructional assistant professor in the Department of Marine Biology, travel to various areas where they can tag sharks and collect samples. They say overfishing is the biggest threat to sharks, which are often caught accidentally by commercial fishing operations trying to catch swordfish or tuna. Additionally, some shark species don’t produce many offspring and don’t mature sexually until after 20 years of age, meaning it can be more difficult to make up for declining numbers.

Matich said when predators like sharks are removed from an ecosystem or their behavior changes, it can negatively affect the ecosystem and ocean health as a whole. He and his colleagues conducted a study where they used over 15,000 baited remote underwater video stations on 371 coral reefs in 58 countries. They detected no sharks in nearly 20 percent of the locations and noted that there were almost no sharks in several coral reefs they surveyed.


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