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A tale of two sand tiger sharks

Published November 30, 2011

We're very excited to welcome two new sand tiger sharks to the Open Ocean exhibit at the National Aquarium, Baltimore. Where did these sharks come from, and how did they get to the Aquarium? Watch this video to find out: Whenever possible, the animals in our exhibits are bred right here at the National Aquarium, or at other zoos and aquariums across the country. The National Aquarium has successfully bred many species of cartilaginous fish, including Southern stingrays and cownose rays. Breeding programs reduce the need to collect animals from the wild.

Did you know? The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) maintains a forum where accredited institutions can swap animals—it's like Craigslist for aquariums!

Breeding programs are not possible for some species, including the sand tiger shark, due to intensive resource requirements and logistical impossibilities. For this reason, Andy Dehart, director of Fishes & Aquatic Invertebrates for the National Aquarium and renowned shark expert, and his team are leading the way for sustainable shark-collecting practices that put the safety and health of the animals first. Sharks are collected using a long-line fishing technique that minimizes bycatch, or fish caught unintentionally, and "we modify our fishing hooks, sanding off the barbs, to reduce injury and handling time of the sharks," says Andy. "We know that line fishing with barbless hooks means we catch less sharks, but that's a trade off we're happy to accept," he continues. The sharks are transported back to shore in a special shark-sized fish box on the Aquarium's shark collecting vessel. If a shark is thrashing in the fish box, Dehart and other Aquarium staff will actually get in the box and "hug" the shark to keep it still to prevent any injury. A big, cold, wet shark hug—now that's dedication!
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