Two Ocean Aquarium’s new Shark Alley is a window on a fascinating world

Posted by Lorraine Kearney on 27 October 2021

People have a visceral fear of sharks, but it is a fear unfounded. In fact, if anything, sharks should be afraid of people – it is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed annually by humans.

But the average annual shark bite fatalities between 2002 and 2012 was just five, according to Sharks & People by Thomas P Peschak.

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The impetus behind the new Shark Alley display at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront precinct is to make people afraid for sharks, not afraid of sharks, faced as they are with environmental threats, finning and hunting. Many sharks are vulnerable species, threatened or highly endangered.

Some species have declined by 90% in recent years. Sharks are targeted for their meat, fins, skin, teeth and cartilage in commercial fishing operations, and are also caught as bycatch.

Shark Alley was officially opened on 26 October, the latest addition to the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) Shark Exhibit at the aquarium. The highly informative display is in partnership with the SOSF.

It was named for the corridor near Gansbaai, explained Clova Mabin, director of the SOSF Shark Education Centre in Kalk Bay. Shark Alley is a narrow ribbon of water between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock. A large number of white sharks circle the islands and swim through the narrow channel between them.

Shark Alley curves around the outer walls of the Shark Exhibit and complements the viewing of live sharks with informative signage and interactive exhibits chockful of fascinating shark facts. The interactive exhibits encourage you to learn more about shark biology and conservation, and seeing live sharks inspires awe and admiration for these animals, adds the aquarium.

You can learn specific biological aspects of sharks in Shark Alley with information about their senses, fins, teeth, respiration, reproduction and much more. You can even see tiny shark foetuses moving in their eggs, known as mermaid’s purses, in a special red-lit display tank.

‘Through millions of years of evolution, sharks have adapted and continue to adapt to their ocean habitat. Some of the survival strategies they have developed are exactly what makes them vulnerable to exploitation by the most efficient and dangerous predator of all – humans. We cannot continue to overexploit, outwit and misunderstand sharks. If they are to survive globally, they need our support and love,’ says Helen Lockhart, the aquarium’s communications and sustainability manager, who helped to create Shark Alley.

Sharks have inhabited Earth’s oceans for the past 400 million years.

Since 2003, SOSF has been dedicated to protecting life in our oceans, especially sharks and rays. The international organisation is based in Geneva and supports researchers, conservationists and educators around the globe by funding their projects and helping them to tell important scientific and environmental stories. It has centres in South Africa, Seychelles and the USA, which are dedicated to learning about sharks and rays and sharing that knowledge.

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