After two full weeks of planning and creating fun activities for the public, Culture Night 2019 rolled in fast on September 20th! Together the Sea Deep team and volunteers created a Jaws themed stand with games, a photo booth, and the opportunity to tag a (fluffy) shark!
We're gonna need a bigger boat at Culture Night
The first game of the day was 'Name that Shark Emoji' - players had to match the emoji images to the real names of sharks. This game highlighted that sharks come in all shapes and sizes - they don't all look like Jaws the Great White! It allowed us to educate players about the different sharks living in our local waters, many of which came as a surprise to people.
We challenged the publics' knowledge of sharks with our 'Fake News or Shark Truths' game. Each player needed to decide if the statements were true or false. This game was a great opportunity to bust all too common myths about sharks and emphasizes the vulnerability of these animals and the threats they are facing worldwide.
The negative portrayal of sharks as man-eating monsters has left a detrimental impact on these fish, and this was obvious during Culture Night as many people expressed their fear of sharks. To capture Belfast's perception of sharks, we asked people to write down words they associate with sharks and display them on our paper Porbeagle: an endangered species that spend part of the year here in Northern Ireland. Many of the words were imaginative but uncomplimentary; for example, night swimmers are yummy treats, killers, and scary. Jaws provided the inspiration for many of the words that people displayed on our Porbeagle, including some quotes like 'need a bigger boat' and 'cold dead eyes, like doll eyes'. We even had 'da-dum' from the Jaws' theme song!
It was sad to see this association as sharks are not evil, like they are depicted in movies. In reality, they the most vulnerable fish in our oceans. Many sharks don't reach maturity till late in their lives, and pregnancy can last up to 2 years for some species, this means that it can take decades for a shark population to recover from damage such as overfishing. Another factor that increases their vulnerability is that for some species, the females will often travel in packs; therefore, a fishing boat can remove a large portion of the population easily and quickly.
Some shark fans throughout the day added positive words to our Porbeagle such as 'sharks are cool,' 'graceful' and the favourite 'baby shark.' And of course, we appreciated the epic puns - 'fin-tastic' and 'jaw-some'!
So the public could get their hands wet, we hid mermaids purses in a beachy mixture of water and seaweed. This activity was popular amongst not only children but adults who couldn't believe that there are sharks in Northern Ireland, let alone that some of them lay eggs!
But the real star of the night was Jawbox, our giant fluffy shark. Everyone wanted to get a photo with Jawbox, but of course, he needed to be held according to best practice handling techniques! We got some great photos of people supporting his underside because of his lack of ribcage - well-done everyone!
Jawbox helped us to teach people how we tag sharks and the importance of Sea Deeps work. Tagging allows us to learn more about the types of sharks in our local waters, their distribution, and preferred habitats. We can learn a lot about them by tagging, and this information will help us to recommend effective conservation and management measures in Northern Ireland for sharks. We had a great time at Culture Night - we hope you did too! And don't forget to check out our events page for how you can get involved with shark conservation here in Northern Ireland.