The Two Oceans Aquarium participates in research and conservation programmes for two species of sharks, namely ragged-tooth sharks and seven-gill sharks.

In the Beginning

In 2004, the Two Oceans Aquarium in conjunction with Save our Seas and the AfriOceans Conservation Alliance (AOCA), tagged and released Maxine, a ragged-tooth shark that had been housed in the Aquarium for eight and a half years. Maxine’s fascinating history and release gave rise to the M-Sea programme (Maxine Science, Education and Awareness Programme). This programme aimed to gain scientific information about ragged-tooth sharks and to raise awareness of their plight. 

Aquarium Curator Michael Farquhar with Maxine

Since then, the Two Oceans Aquarium has subsequently released several other sharks back into the ocean every two years. After Maxine, another three Aquarium sharks were tagged with satellite tags and released, while sharks released since 2009 have received spaghetti tags.

In 2013, we released two sharks fitted with acoustic tags, which can be used to track their movements along the South African coast. Watch these short videos below, documenting the release:

Why do we release our sharks?

Scientists are using every opportunity available to learn more about these incredible animals that have been roaming the Earth’s oceans for the more than 400 million years. Releasing sharks that have been housed at the Two Oceans Aquarium affords us a great opportunity to study ragged-tooth sharks in general and their migration patterns along the southern African coastline. The data from Maxine’s tag and other tagged sharks revealed fascinating aspects of the sharks’ lives. 

  • Globally vulnerable species
  • Locally abundant
  • Long-lived species
  • Not breeding in the Two Oceans Aquarium
  • Opportunity to highlight the plight of species locally and globally
  • Ambassador species
Kay is lowered into the back of the truck, ready to hit the road

What are the objectives of the tag and release programme?

  • To create awareness about the plight of sharks: Over 100 million sharks are killed around the world every year
  • To change peoples’ perceptions of sharks: they are not ‘man-eating monsters’ but top predators in the oceans and important for keeping the ecological balance
  • To determine the success of releasing sharks from the Aquarium back into the wild
  • To compare their behaviour to wild sharks
  • To investigate migration patterns

Why shark conservation?

Shark numbers are declining at a rapid pace due to overfishing. As predators they keep the marine food chain in balance. By killing as many as 100 million sharks every year, we are disrupting the food chain and the ocean ecosystem.

Sharks have been damningly portrayed as “vicious killers”; an image that is completely unneccessary and unwarranted. Through our shark conservation porgrammes and releases we aim to change people’s perception of these animals.

Sevengill shark research

A diver and a sevengill shark. Photo courtesy of Morne Hardenberg

With thanks to Woolworths, the Two Oceans Aquarium donated over R150 000 to Dr Alison Kock, research manager for the Shark Spotters, who is leading an exciting five-year research project on broadnose sevengill sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus, also known as cowsharks). Aquarium staff also physically assist Dr. Kock by accompanying her on tagging trips and assisting with the catch, sampling, tagging and release of the sharks.

Read more about the project here:

You can also download the following articles about our shark release programme: