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A Gold StAR for our endangered zebra sharks

  • Thursday 16th February 2023
  • Sharks

Zebra Shark

Calling all ocean lovers! Have you heard about the world's first re-wilding of an endangered shark species? It's called the 'StAR Project,' and SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium is right in the thick of it.

The StAR Project, led by ReShark, is a multi-national, collaborative initiative aiming to establish genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations of zebra sharks in the Indo-West Pacific to benefit local populations and support healthy marine ecosystems.

Zebra shark egg

As a project partner, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium has contributed valuable breeding, egg and pup data, established shipping and handling techniques, and provided viable eggs to the StAR hatcheries in Raja Ampat.

Laura Simmons, the Regional Curator for SEA LIFE Australia/New Zealand, said, "Bringing our team and animals into the StAR project and being able to contribute to shark conservation in a meaningful way has been a dream come true. This is part of the 'WHY' behind what we do every day!"

Why is this project so important? Due to their slow population growth rates, marine conservation actions, such as increased fishing regulations and marine protected areas, have not been enough to secure the future of the zebra shark. Augmentation with aquarium-bred zebra sharks is critical to re-establish the wild populations.

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium became a "Breeder Institution" once its population of three adult zebra sharks (one male and two females) was identified as genetically suitable to support the newly established breed-for-release recovery program.

After a rigorous permitting and governmental approval process, the founder eggs (accompanied by Laura) from SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium were sent to the StAR hatcheries in Raja Ampat. This was the first export of eggs for the StAR Project and a world first for a shark species recovery program. These eggs travelled more than 4200 kilometres!

In early January, the first shark pups hatched in Raja Ampat from eggs laid in Sydney. It's a momentous achievement for the StAR Project and a culmination of many years of hard work and planning to ensure a future for zebra sharks in the wild.

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium will continue working with their project partners to support this important recovery initiative and inspire their guests to protect the ocean and its inhabitants. Who knows? The continued success of the StAR Project could pave the way for the recovery of shark populations globally!

Make sure you come on in and check out our zebra sharks over the next few months in this exciting period for the StAR Project, SEA LIFE Sydney and the aquatic world!