Biodiversity, Sharks and Healthy Oceans

April is Earth month – a time to reflect on our relationship with the planet and take a deeper dive into how Earth’s systems are handling rapid change. Eco-Schools USA is proud to share the work of our friends at Sharks4Kids.

Get Motivated – Be Inspired – Take Action!

Biodiversity is critical for healthy oceans. Scientists have found a decline in ocean biodiversity has consequences on the stability of functioning ecosystems. This system is delicately balanced and when a component or multiple components are affected, the entire system and its interconnected parts feel the impact.

Jillian Morris - Sharks4Kids

Jillian teaching students in the Bahamas about the role sharks play in the food web/chain Credit: Duncan Brake

Sharks are not always apex predators, but no matter where in the food chain they exist, they play a critical and necessary role in its balance. They help maintain healthy and sustainable populations of the animals they consume. They also eat injured, sick, dying or dead animals, which keeps the oceans clean and keeps disease from spreading.

High school student, Lauren Hammonds helps students understand the important role sharks play in the ocean ecosystem. Credit: Jennifer Hammonds

High school sophmore, Lauren H. helps students understand the important role sharks play in the ocean ecosystem. Credit: Jennifer Hammonds

Healthy oceans need sharks, but the majority of the world’s population is afraid of these incredible animals. Replacing fear with facts and fascination is necessary in the fight to save sharks and save our oceans. Globally, 100 million sharks are killed each year (conservative estimate with the potential of 273 million being the actual number), targeted for their fins, meat and oil.

Sharks4Kids goal is to help students understand there is so much more to sharks than just their teeth – sharks are important to all of us. We are all connected and our actions impact others around the world. Sylvia Earle’s profound statement is something we strive to teach,

“With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live.”

If something is not directly in our life each day, it’s easy to avoid it, but we can no longer avoid the issues facing our oceans.

8 foot bull shark tagged during Sharks4Kids & Seacamp STEM program- Credit: Duncan Brake

8 foot bull shark tagged during Sharks4Kids & Seacamp STEM program- Credit: Duncan Brake

Through education and outreach Sharks4Kids provide facts and exciting interactive tools for students to learn about sharks and how remarkable these creatures really are. We want students to get excited and realize sharks are not monsters of the sea and some even have belly buttons and buddies. Our team has worked with sharks in a wide range of capacities all over the globe, and by sharing our experiences, we are helping people of all ages change their perception.

Lauren Hammonds, inspired by Sharks4Kids and Jillian Morris' work is helping to change young student's minds about sharks. Credit: Jennifer Hammonds

Lauren H., inspired by Sharks4Kids and Jillian Morris’ work, is helping to change young student’s minds about sharks. Credit: Jennifer Hammonds

We genuinely believe kids have a voice and can make a difference, so we are working to empower them with the tools to speak up and make a change. Simple actions like sharing facts, making a poster or using less plastic, can all help sharks. We also offer programs where students get to see real sharks and participate in research, which helps us create another connection to the ocean.

Ocean and shark conservation is a real issue that whether we realize it or not, is our problem, no matter who we are or where we live. So if it’s our problem, we can all be part of the solution. Organizations like ours providing real life examples and opportunities for kids to get involved and to be part of making a change. This is not just learning from a textbook, this is real life, real actions and really making a difference.

Students in the Bahamas learning about sharks and rays up close Credit: Jillian Morris

Students in the Bahamas learning about sharks and rays up close Credit: Jillian Morris

“Some of my favorite moments are when students share their desire to help sharks, especially students who thought sharks were killing machine and served no role in our oceans. Seeing that change and that passion is what inspires me to keep fighting for these animals everyday. These students give me hope for sharks, hope for the oceans and hope for all of us.”


About the Author
Jillian Morris is a marine biologist, shark advocate, scuba instructor, explorer and educator. She is the executive director of Oceanicallstars conservation media group and the creator of Sharks4Kids.


Eco-Schools USA is a K-12 program of the National Wildlife Federation focused on student-driven sustainability through leadership, STEM, action and community. To learn more and take action on biodiversity, visit our Pathways to Sustainability.

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