Sharks are disappearing at an alarming rate. National Geographic Explorer and award-winning photojournalist Brian Skerry is doing his part to show people what it’s like to come face-to-nose with the world’s most feared predators and why we should all rally to save them. The National Geographic photography exhibition "SHARKS: On Assignment with Brian Skerry" is now on display at Georgia Aquarium, the first venue to host the traveling exhibit following its debut at the National Geographic Museum. Below are photos taken of the exhibition.
Skerry has spent more than 10,000 hours underwater exploring the world’s oceans with a camera to show why sharks need to be protected and appreciated as an integral species within the ecosystem.
Skerry said his first encounter with a shark when he was 20 changed the trajectory of his career. He's pictured above more recently with an oceanic whitetip shark in the Bahamas. These sharks are aggressive predators. But removing dominant ocean predators creates ecological havoc.
The exhibit takes visitors around the world for a close-up look at different sharks in their native habitats.
On any given day Tiger Beach has multiple tiger sharks at the bottom, waiting to be fed. Many of them have acclimated to the presence of humans and know that some will have food for them. Tiger sharks prefer crunching on sea turtles, but stranger things have been found inside their stomachs, including tires, license plates and paint cans.
Caribbean reef sharks and hundreds of smaller fish swarm in Walker's Cay, Abaco Islands, Bahamas, worked into a near frenzy by the smell of chum.
The hammerhead is actually one of evolution’s most advanced sharks. The shape of its head gives this shark an impressive field of vision for hunting in the open water. Its wide-set eyes and nostrils provide keen peripheral senses. Hammerheads produce only once a year, so commercial fishing has a drastic impact on the population.
Sharks have survived the last five mass extinctions that have occurred on Earth, but their future is threatened. By most estimates, some 100 million sharks are killed annually. The commercial fishing industry is responsible for most of those deaths. Sharks are often hunted and killed just for their fins. “I came across this bigeye thresher shark in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico and felt overwhelming sympathy for the plight of these incredible animals,” said Skerry according to a caption. “I hope that through photography I can share my experiences and get people to really care about sharks’ lives.”
This mangrove forest in Bimini, Bahamas, serves as a nursery for lemon shark pups. At only a few weeks old they are perfect miniatures of adult lemon sharks. “I wanted to capture images of sharks at this vulnerable stage of their lives to help show people that these animals are more than dangerous predators,” said Skerry according to a caption.
“I’ve learned that each shark has its own distinct personality — some are curious and friendly, while others are standoffish or aggressive,” said Skerry.
This tiger shark, seen near Oahu, Hawaii, is just four or five weeks old. As these sharks mature they all but lose the vertical stripes that give them their name.
See the exhibit in person until April 2018 at Georgia Aquarium.