Sharks and Rays

tan shark swimming above sandy bottom in shallow water
Juvenile Lemon Shark - Virgin Islands National Park

NPS Photo/Richard Lincoln

Popular culture may have led you to believe that sharks are predators you should be frightened of. In reality, only a few of the over 470 species of sharks and rays are aggressive or dangerous to humans. They have much more to fear from us than we do from them, since fishing nets and the market for shark fins pose serious threats to these animals.

Unlike most bony fish that lay millions of eggs, sharks and rays mature slowly and bear relatively few young, making their populations especially vulnerable to the dangers facing them. It is important that we work to protect these amazing fish, since these predators play a critical role in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems – they’ll eat almost anything, including carcasses!

Many species of sharks and rays can be found in coastal national parks. Park scientists at places like Cape Cod, Dry Tortugas, and Point Reyes study sharks and rays to learn more about their role in ocean health. Visit specific park websites to learn about where you can see sharks and rays, as well as for important safety messages about visiting those areas.

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    Last updated: May 19, 2017


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