Meet Sharks4Kids Regional Ambassador Gabe Jensen.
Gabe has been working with our team for a while, so we are really excited to share his shark story. Gabe is absolute waterman and loves sharing the oceans and the outdoors with people. When not working in the world of pharmaceuticals, he can usually be found on our in the water.
1. What’s your favorite shark and why?
My favorite shark is the Greenland Shark (Somniosus microcephalus)! These awesome Sharks live in the very deep and cold waters of the North Atlantic and recent studies suggest that they can live to be around 400 years old! Besides being totally adorable looking, these sharks are almost always completely blind because of parasites that feed off their eyes! Cool huh? I fell in love with the Greenland Shark and other sleeper sharks after watching underwater drone footage of them feeding on whale and reindeer carcasses which have sunk to the ocean depths, they just look so floppy!
2. What’s one species of shark you would like to see in the wild?
I would love to watch a thresher feed on schooling bait in the wild. Thresher sharks use their long tails like a whip to stun their baitfish prey!
3.Can you tell us about one of your favorite moments in the water with a shark?
I was snorkeling right off the beach near Anna Maria Island when I was surrounded by a school of cownose rays (Yay Flat Sharks). It was like being caught in a snowstorm with what seemed like thousands of rays gliding in circular patterns. All I could do was watch in wonder at the whirlwind, and when I returned to the surface to breathe, it seemed like the whole ocean floor was moving. I knew then that I wanted to share how beautiful the ocean could be.
4. Why do you think shark education is important?
Because on land, are the apex predator. Nobody walks down the street in their hometown worrying about tigers and bears but who hasn’t in their youth gone to the beach and felt a twinge of fear looking into water? People will fear the unknown, and this can be dispelled through knowledge and experience. My favorite example of this is watching people learn the different tooth shapes of sharks and how they affect what the sharks eat. The sharp pointy teeth of a Sand Tiger shark might look wicked, but knowing that they are fragile and designed to catch slippery little fish means that they won’t even bother with a something as large as a human. Dispelling fear through knowledge opens up entire worlds which would have otherwise been closed.
5. What’s your favorite shark fact to share with people?
Sharks make their own toothpaste, well sort of. The active ingredient in toothpaste is mostly Flouride and shark teeth are covered in a substance called fluoroapatite, which has a bioavailable form of fluoride! This makes the teeth very cavity resistant. Fluoroapatite, is chemically resistant to the natural acids that build up from the bacteria in a shark mouth. Since Humans have saliva, we generally have much less natural fluoride in our enamel, and rely on enzymes and acids in our spit to keep our teeth clean. But just because we have saliva doesn’t mean we cant brush our teeth, its not like we can just grow new teeth once we have a cavity! Isn’t Biochemistry fun!
6. In your mind, why is shark conservation so important.
Because I like Fish Tacos! You might think that doesn’t make any sense, but keeping a healthy population of sharks ensures the health of our reefs and the health of our fish stocks. Let’s say you remove the sharks off of a reef in the Gulf of Mexico. Now the sharks prey, smaller predators like grouper and hogfish, start to proliferate and eat all of the tiny baitfish and crustaceans. Once the tiny Baitfish and crustaceans have been wiped out, there is no food left and the small predator population collapses… and now there is no fish for anyone. Sharks are a vital part of the food web all over the world, and currently their populations are under siege worldwide, something has to be done.