Two whitetip reef sharks (Trianeodon obesus) in Fidschi | Photo: Tom Vierus

07.09.17 | In 2016, the marine biologist and photographer Tom Vierus won the German Prize for Science Photography in the "Photo Reportage" category with a series of photos of his research on young sharks. Now, in cooperation with the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), he is showing a selection of his spectacular close-ups of adult sharks in the House of Science. The opening of the exhibition will take place on 14 September 2017 at 6:00 PM.

Sharks have existed for approximately 400 million years. They are perfectly adapted predators, bursting with muscle power, yet they are very elegant animals. People are particularly fascinated by sharks. Tom Vierus, marine biologist, photographer and former student at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) has come impressively close to them with his underwater camera. Together with the ZMT, he conceived a photo exhibition that is now being shown at the House of Science.

The exhibition is fascinating not only due to the spectacular shark photos, but because it also informs the viewer about the endangerment of the animals and ways to protect them. The importance of shark research is illustrated by the example of a project on Fiji, which Vierus carried out during his time at the ZMT.

“Sharks have an image problem: the media portray them as killers," said Vierus, "but more people are killed, for example, by getting kicked by horses or attacks by hippos. The truth is that sharks play an extremely important role in the marine ecosystem."

The oceans are home to about 500 species of sharks. But how much longer? The figures are alarming: around 100 million sharks die every year, and at least 74 shark species are already threatened with extinction. The main reasons for this are industrial fishing and finning, the removal of fins. The shark is then thrown back into the sea and dies. One kilo of fins can earn up to 1000 dollars on the Asian market, where shark fin soup is considered a delicacy.

Vierus is committed to protecting sharks. On Fiji he photographed sharks during his dives and observed the practice of shark dives organized for tourists. Baits attract the animals, which can then be viewed from a safe distance. This kind of tourist attraction is controversial, however.

The organized dives interfere with the behaviour of the sharks. But they also offer many opportunities. Sharks thus generate financial value apart from fishing, and in the  – often poor – countries concerned, new jobs are created and the ecological function of sharks is brought to the attention of tourists. In 2011, for example, shark fishing was banned throughout the entire territory of the Bahamas. Shark tourism there generates more than 110 million dollars in annual revenue.

“A living shark is worth far more than a dead one,” said Vierus. Everyone can help –for example by joining conservation organizations and by sharing his/her knowledge about sharks to friends and relatives. Very important: don't buy shark products, which are sold under names like Schillerlocke (curled strip of smoked dogfish) or sea eel, because these are bramble sharks. Calf-fish or sea sturgeon are herring sharks, and what is sold as baconfish is actually grey shark.

The media and the public are cordially invited to the opening of the exhibition on Thursday, 14 September 2017 at 6 pm at the House of Science, Sandstr. 4/5 in Bremen. The photographer Tom Vierus will give an introduction to the photos. The exhibition will run until 17 November 2017.

Tom Vierus
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