The tour began with a special behind-the-scenes look at the park's famed 700,000 gallon aquarium, which housed dozens of varieties of marine life, including several sandbar and nurse sharks. Beyond the sheer thrill of standing just above the aquarium atop these marine animals (this is a new 'above the tank' experience that guests can experience for a minimal upcharge as part of the 'Sharks Up-Close Tour' package), it was perplexing to think that none of the other beautiful fish were being attacked by any of the sharks. We were then informed that the sharks maintained very strict diets, and were fed twice per week... let's read that again: the sharks were only feeding twice a week! It was further described that the sharks would much rather eat when food was essentially being served to them, vs. the sharks having to swim around and chase around the very speedy fish. Made sense to me! The trainer then told us that the sharks within this particular arquarium were also fed via long poles, so as to not associate humans with 'food'. Further, each shark is fed one at a time, and that shark's intake was carefully measured with each feeding.
We then learned that sharks have an extra sense that humans don't possess. The 'freckles' along their noses act as special electromagnetic sensors thereby allowing sharks to detect heartbeats in the water. For example, sharks can detect stingrays buried under the sand by sensing the ray's heartbeat! It's because of this sense that sharks will typically pursue the sicker / slower fish as food, because they know that the slower heartbeats make for easier catches, which in turn helps to prevent the spread of disease and keeps our oceans clean.
Visitors to the SeaWorld Park can view the Shark Encounter tank via one of the world's largest underwater viewing tunnels for some extremely up close and personal views of sharks from underneath! After taking in some breathtaking views, we learned that over 100 MILLION sharks are killed each year by humans, typically from hunters seeking the shark's fins for human consumption. Additionally, it is due to overfishing that more than 30% of open-ocean sharks may be threatened with extinction.
During our tour we also learned that most shark attacks are not due to sharks wanting to attack humans, but rather that the shark mistook the human for another food source or as a form of territorial defense.
Our visit for the day concluded with an outdoor tour of the shark tank's filtration system, which utilizes mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration methods. Probably the most impressive part of this was the disclosure that the filtration system was able to cycle through all 700,000 gallons every 90 minutes!!! Amazing!
Please consider sustainable sources when planning your next meal. Specifically as it relates to sharks, avoid restaurants that serve shark-fin soups. Please check out SeafoodWatch.Org to learn about sustainable sea species, and where we should and shouldn't be depleting our sea-life resources.