Happy Shark Week

By: Anna Medema | July 31, 2019

Happy Shark Week! 

Sharks are one of the world’s most famous predators, but how much do we actually know about them? Several coastal national park sites help provide insight into the lives of these marine animals.

One of the best parks to learn about sharks is Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts. In particular, Cape Cod is known for its population of great white sharks, one of the sharks at the top of the food chain. As predators, they fill a very important role in marine ecosystems, and have direct impacts many species including seals and other fish. Seals make up the primary portion of their diet, and as the seal population of Cape Cod had increased in recent years, so has the great white shark population. Cape Cod has many tips for how to stay safe in and around the water, including always staying in groups and avoiding low-visibility water. For more information about shark safety at the park, click here

However, not all sharks pose a threat to humans! In fact, only a small portion of the 470 species of sharks are aggressive or dangerous to us. Many more of them would rather keep to themselves, such as the nurse shark found at Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. Nurse sharks are carnivorous, but their lives do not center around hunting. They enjoy spending time swimming, resting, and socializing in groups. Studying nurse sharks has helped shed light on the importance of sharks in tropical ecosystems, both in the oceanic food webs and in coral reef ecology. To learn more about nurse sharks in Dry Tortugas, click here.

Although sharks are often made out to be scary predators, they have more to fear from us than we do from them. Fishing nets and shark fin markets pose a threat to these animals, as does climate change and the resulting changing ocean ecosystems. This Shark Week, we encourage you to check out one of these coastal national park sites to learn more about sharks and the crucial role they place in our ecosystems! Photo links here and here.

List of coastal national park sites where sharks may be present:

  • Acadia National Park
  • Assateague Island National Seashore
  • Canaveral National Seashore
  • Cape Cod National Seashore
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore
  • Cape Lookout National Seashore
  • Channel Islands National Park
  • Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Fire Island National Seashore
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
  • Olympic National Seashore
  • Padre Island National Seashore
  • Point Reyes National Seashore

Link to general NPS site about sharks: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/oceans/sharks-and-rays.htm