They’re not big fans of “Sharknado,” and they wouldn’t exactly call the “Jaws” movie franchise helpful to their shark conservation efforts.
But representatives of Sea Life Aquarium said if the museum could help save even a few human lives by latching onto people’s deepest shark fears, then they would bite.
So on Aug. 8, more than 70 donors lined up inside Concord Mills mall to give blood during the local aquarium’s first American Red Cross blood drive.
The event coincided with Shark Week – the seven-day feeding frenzy of all things shark-related that occurs every year around this time, courtesy of The Discovery Channel.
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The cable channel has been reserving one week each summer since 1988 to air its documentaries on one of the oceans’ most feared predators.
Since then, others have joined in, offering schools of shark films.
This year, Sea Life Aquarium hopped aboard with its own programming Aug. 11-17, offering educational talks and opportunities to touch real shark teeth and to witness feedings with the 10 sharks inside the aquarium.
Sea Life’s marketing manager, Jack Stevenson, who helped organize the blood drive, cited the obvious connection.
“What better way to kick off shark week than to come after the blood of our guests?” he said. “It really is a great cause.”
According to the American Red Cross, the timing couldn’t be better.
In summer, the Red Cross typically experiences a shortfall of blood products, because donations from college and high school students – the demographic responsible for nearly 20 percent of the nation’s blood supply – usually drop off when school is not in session.
The usual increase in the number of people traveling and boating during June, July and August, though, can quickly deplete the region’s blood supply.
“A single car accident victim, depending on their injuries, can actually need up to 100 units of blood during the course of their treatment,” said Kira Nyland, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross.
Because blood has a shelf life of only 42 days, it must be replenished often.
“I’ve donated ever since I turned 18,” said Keith Triplett, 63, of Kannapolis. “It’s an easy way I can help somebody else.”
Triplett was among dozens of others who traded their blood for a free day pass at the aquarium, where they learned, from facts printed near the tanks, that sharks really aren’t all that bad.
For all the hype in recent years, shark attacks are relatively rare, and shark-related fatalities are even rarer. Of the 47 unprovoked shark attacks last year, only one was fatal.
Despite the myths, sharks don’t find humans as palatable as we may imagine. Experts believe most shark bites arise from a simple case of mistaken identity: People float around in the water like seals, which make up the majority of a shark’s diet.
In truth, people are more of a danger to sharks than the other way around. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins, which are considered a delicacy in some cultures.
“Believe it or not, these animals are very good for our oceans,” said Stevenson. “They keep our ocean populations where they need to be.”