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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — It’s national shark awareness day, and the Aquarium in New Orleans wants everyone to know the importance of the species to the ocean.

“We’re kind of trying to combat a lot of negative perceptions that exist for sharks, to teach people that if you love our oceans and you want them to be healthy, then you have to be the voice for sharks,” said Kristine Grzenda, curator of aquatics at the Aquarium.

There are more than 400 species of sharks, and less than 10 are dangerous to man, Grzenda said.

“Sharks are what are called opportunistic feeders, which means they’re really looking for the easy meal. They are looking for the sick, the injured, the weak animal. That is their role in the wild, to keep population numbers in check to keep populations healthy and promote healthy biodiversity,” said Grzenda.

“If you’re ever a part of a conversation where people are talking about sharks, and they’re talking about the fear and anxiety that they have, then you can be the person who says, ‘But did you know how important they are? Did you know the crucial role that they play in the balance of our oceans?’, and if we can change the way people think about sharks then we can change the future of sharks.”

The Gulf of Mexico has nurse sharks, sandbar sharks and sand tiger sharks, which are dwindling in numbers.

“They do have a conservation status attached to them depending on where you find them in the world,” Grzenda said.  “They have a different conservation status attached to them, but it is very important to know that they didn’t have this status 25 years ago, and they do now.”