CARLSBAD, Calif. — This week is Shark Week — and to celebrate, our Tabitha Lipkin went for a dive with sharks at Legoland California Resort’s SEA LIFE Aquarium.
“People are always afraid of sharks because they see shark attacks on TV,” said Matt Minkalis, a dive master at SEA LIFE.
According to Minkalis, the majority of sharks are docile, curious creatures. “We dive with the sharks every day, and we have every day since we opened. These sharks don’t seem to mind us.”
In SEA LIFE’s 190,000-gallon tank, visitors will find a variety of sharks, all vital to our oceans. Sharks are like the bees of the ocean, keeping reefs and ecosystems healthy.
“Sharks are really important to our ecosystems because they keep a really healthy balance with the food chain. They help make sure all the fish populations stay at a steady level,” Minkalis said.
An estimated 100 million sharks are killed annually for their fins, along with stingrays.
The aquarium currently has more than 30 sharks onsite, from whitetip reef sharks to the local leopard sharks — and even Minkalis’ favorite. “My favorite shark at SEA LIFE is definitely the zebra shark. We have three zebra sharks here: one male and two females. They get up to 12 feet long, but they usually average around 7 to 8 feet. What’s cool about them is, when they’re born they have stripes, but as they get older they turn into spots. So they have more of a cheetah pattern than a zebra pattern.”
One of SEA LIFE Aquarium’s goals is to get people talking about sharks in a positive light. Among the options the aquarium offers for becoming more hands-on is exploring the Shark Mission room, which dives into detail about shark anatomy.
Whether visitors choose to connect with sea life from the tunnel through the aquarium, play an interactive video game or even hand over a tasty treat to a whitetip shark, education is SEA LIFE’s aim. “It’s extremely important to educate everybody about it because maybe everyone is not used to living this close to the ocean,” Minkalis said. “We like to educate everybody and make them more aware of how easy they (sharks) are and how they benefit our ecosystem.”
To be an active advocate for sharks, there are several things you can do at home:
- Inquire about your seafood and whether or not it is sustainably caught. Here’s an online guide.
- Avoid single-use plastics, many of which end up back in the ocean.
- Take part in one of the 12 beach cleanups that SEA LIFE puts on every year.
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Went for a dive at #SeaLifeAquarium @legolandcalifornia for a story on #SharkWeek airing Monday on @fox5sandiego! Here’s a few of my favorite moments from being underwater surrounded by white tip reef sharks, black tip reef sharks, zebra sharks, and eagle rays! One of my favorite dives to date! We also got to feed the Zebra Sharks! (My new favorite shark!) 🦓🦈🦋🐡💁🏼♀️ #SOSanDiego