Rescuers from SEA LIFE Blackpool – owned by leisure giant Merlin Entertainments – have dived in to save endangered baby sharks ‘from the jaws of death’… 9,000 miles away in the South Pacific.
In a plot worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, aquarists from the popular seafront aquarium have come up with an innovative solution to protect the ocean predators.
Residents on the Pitcairn Islands – a group descended mainly from the nine mutineers made famous in the classic film Mutiny On The Bounty – have a tradition of hard-carving wooden shark figurines. They sell these to tourists from the seven or eight cruise ships, which visit the remote British overseas territory each year.
However, the figurines feature real teeth from baby and juvenile sharks, leading to them being culled.
Scott Blacker, head aquarist at SEA LIFE Blackpool, was horrified to hear of this when he was contacted by a professor, who was liaising with the Pitcairn islanders and searching for an alternative.
Scott suggested using sharks’ teeth, which fall out to be replaced as the creatures grow, retrieved from the bottom of the main display at SEA LIFE Blackpool as an alternative. At the start of each year, the aquarists carry out an annual stock-take. As part of this, they recover a large number of discarded teeth, especially from baby and juvenile sharks. They also called on colleagues from SEA LIFE Manchester to join the plight and double the number of shark teeth available.
Matthew Titherington, general manager at SEA LIFE Blackpool, explained: “It’s a remarkable rescue story. Because we can now send a good supply of redundant shark teeth to the Pitcairn Islands, they can use these instead. It’ll save a large number of young sharks, who were being culled just to provide teeth for the figurines. Now they’ll be using shark teeth from Blackpool instead.
“I’d like to thank Scott and all of the team, who’ve played a great role in making this important rescue happen.
“It seems strange that lost teeth from growing sharks here at SEA LIFE Blackpool and Manchester will be going 9,000 miles to the Pitcairn Islands to be used in carved figurines for cruise ship tourists. We’re just delighted to be able to play our part in protecting these beautiful and often-misunderstood creatures of the deep.”
The rescue plan is part of SEA LIFE Blackpool’s ‘Breed, Rescue, Protect’ campaign, which draws on decades of collective experience from its expert marine biologists, as part of its commitment to the conservation and protection of marine life.