Sharks play a vital role in our ecosystems as one of the top predators in our oceans, and humans are their biggest threats.
That's what "shark week" is all about, raising awareness for these "jawesome" creatures. Initially starting as a week-long programming initiative by the Discovery Channel, it's gained a cult-like following.
One place to get up close and personal with their rows of razor sharp teeth while also staying safe is the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, where self-titled "shark enthusiast" Paul Barrington is the Assistant Director.
Barrington says he is fascinated by sharks, encountering and living to tell the tale of his experience with a great white shark when he was younger.
He works to educate people about the importance of sharks to Earth's ecosystems.
"We're all intertwined together," Barrington said. "We can find some sensible commercial and recreational fisheries to maintain a healthy population of sharks, our apex predator, and I think we could all live happily ever after together."
Changes in our waters from pollution and global warming, as well as over fishing, have hurt shark populations, making humans their number one threat.
And while sharks instill fear in a lot of people, Barrington says it's best to be cautious of these fish, showing respect for their environment.
"We need to be concerned about where we're swimming," Barrington said. "Dusk and dawn you hear to avoid swimming in that. Avoid swimming when there's a large aggregation of food fish or bait fish. If you see a bunch of birds diving in the water, there's a good chance the sharks are there for the same reason. It's time to eat."
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