Looking down into the water at the sharks circling below her, Keely Langford, interpretation specialist of tropical waters, says despite everything she knew NOT to be true about sharks, she couldn’t help but feel a little trepidation as she slowly inched herself off the ledge and into the water. This was her first shark show, and she wanted to keep all of her fingers and toes.
Years later, Keely admits that in that moment, she fell victim to the Jaws effect. But she quickly got used to the idea of swimming with sharks, and now she does it once a week to help visitors understand that sharks should actually fear us. While there are only a handful of injuries or deaths by sharks each year, researchers estimate that between 63 and 273 million sharks are killed each year as bycatch or for their fins.
Although all of the Aquarium divers know that sharks don’t want to eat their hairy, bony bodies, they do have sharp teeth, so there are some things they have to keep in mind. Keely says when diving, “Don’t make big movements, don’t move around a lot, and don’t approach the window – this keeps you out of the path of swimming sharks.”
You’ll be well out of their way on the other side of the acrylic pane. See the sharks at the Vancouver Aquarium in both tropical and temperate habitats. Head to the Tropic Zone to see blacktip reef sharks, bamboo sharks, epaulette sharks and a zebra shark, and the Pacific Canada Pavilion to see Pacific spiny dogfish.
Have more questions about sharks? Join us for a shark chat today on Twitter with Keely and other Aquarium shark experts from 1-2 pm. Use #VanAquaSharks to follow along!
Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.