Shark Awareness

Did you know that there are over 400 different species of sharks? Seven different species can be found at Atlantis Paradise Island. Sharks are often feared, but in reality they have more to fear from humans and are important to the marine ecosystem.

The biggests threats to sharks and rays, categorized as the scientific term elasmobranchs (cartilaginous fishes), comes from humans. Sharks are targeted and/or captured as bycatch in commercial gillnets and longlines, as well as sport fishing and coral reef degradation.

In The Bahamas, longline fishing was banned in 1993, and peak elasmobranch export occurred the same year. The export steadily declined until the last export of any elasmobranch product from The Bahamas occurred in 2004.

Learn more about these fascinating animals and their significance.

Caribbean Reef Shark


Found in the Bahamas, along the east and west coast of the Florida and in the gulf of Mexico, south through the Caribbean and along the east coast of South America

Life Span: average of 9.6 yrs up to 14 yrs

Length: males average 4' 9" - 5' 6", females average 5' 9" - 6' 2"


• Snout is short and bluntly rounded

• Pectoral fins are large and narrow

• First dorsal fin is small with a short rear tip

• Caribbean reef sharks are dark gray or gray-brown above, and white or whitish-yellow below


Listed as Endangered on The IUCN List of Threatened Species in 2019. The Bahamas Shark Sanctuary was established in 2011 (Hass et al. 2017), and it is currently illegal to fish for, land or possess any sharks or shark parts in the Bahamas. The first ever birth of a Caribbean reef shark in a control environment happened at Atlantis on June 28th, 1997.

Great Hammerhead Shark


Found worldwide in the tropical and warm temperate seas, generally solitary, coastal and semi-oceanic pelagic.

Life Span: varies regionally; in the northwest Atlantic females muture at around 5yrs and live to around 44yrs, while in the western Central Pacific females mature at around 8yrs and live to around 39yrs.

Length: up to 18 - 20', though 13' is more common


• The great hammerhead is a very large shark with the characteristic hammer-shaped head from which it derives its common name.

• The body is stout and classically shark-shaped with a markedly tall, curved, first dorsal fin.


Listed as Critically Endangered (CR) on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2018.
Atlantis has had this species at its facility since early 2000's.

Nurse Shark


Found widely in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean. In the Western Central and Southwest Atlantic, from North Carolina south to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea; in the Eastern Central and Southeast Atlantic from Morocco to Angola. They inhabit rocky and coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves channels, and sand flats, they tend to aggregate together and they are typically nocturnal.

Life Span: Average is about 30yrs

Length: Adult males around 6' 8" and females between 7' 5" - 7' 8"


•  Mouth near tip of snout has nasal barbels on either side .

• First and second dorsal fins are broadly rounded.

• Eyes are very small

•  These bottom dwelling sharks are usually yellowish-tan to dark brown; Juveniles have small black spots, with an area of lighter pigmentation surrounding each spot.


Listed as Vulnerable on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2019.
Atlantis continues to successfully reproduce this species.

Blacknose Sharks


Found in the Western Central and Southwest Atlantic Ocean, from North Carolina to suthern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

Average Life Span: Between 8yrs in the United States to 11 yrs in northeast Brazil

Length: Around 4' 4"


•  Snout with dusky blotch at the tip – distinct and dark in juveniles, diffuse and dusky in adults.

• First dorsal fin originates over or behind the free tips of the pectoral fins.


Listed as Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2019.
Atlantis was the first to have a Blcknose shark successfully reproduce in a control environment back in 1997.

Bonnethead Sharks


Found in both the western Atlantic and the eastern Pacific Oceans. In the Atlantic it ranges from Rhode Island, USA to at least Bahia, Brazil and possibly Uruguay. This species inhabits continental and insular shelves over mud and sand, seagrass, coral reefs, estuaries, shallow bays and channels.

Life Span: Varies regionally but the average is 12yrs.

Length: Maximum size of just under 5'.


•  Bonnetheads are one of the smaller hammerheads, easily distinguished by their shovel-shaped heads.

•  The eyes are located at the ends of the evenly rounded lobes of the flattened head, increasing the field of vision.

•  When swimming, the head rolls from side to side.

• Considered harmless to humans, this species is rather shy.


Listed as Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2019.
Atlantis has successfully reproduced Bonnethead sharks numerous times over the past 20 years.

Pacific Blacktip Shark


Found in the Indo-Pacific, from the east coast of Africa and the Arabian Sea to Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese waters. They have also been reported to have traversed Brackish river mouths through Malaysia and Madagascar, where they have also been found in brackish lakes. Pacific blacktip sharks feed on small fish, mollusks, and crustaceans.

Length: Maximum size is around 7'.


•  A small-medium sized shark with prominent black tips on all fins.

•  Snout is short and bluntly rounded.

• Blacktip reef sharks are live-bearing, nourishing pups in utero; Most litters contain 2-4 pups.


List as Lower Risk-Near Threatened on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Speices.

Zebra Shark


Found in the tropical Western Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Red Sea, the zebra shark lives on the coral reefs; foraging for food at night. Like the nurse shark, it is in a group of sharks called carpet sharks, as it spends most of the day lying on the sea floor


•  Adults are yellow-brown with dark brown spots while the young are dark with white spots and stripes; The juveniles’ stripes are what give this species its common name of zebra shark.

•  Common names include zebra shark, leopard shark and variegated shark.

•  Adults have prominent ridges running along the body.

• Black and white stripes in pups eventually turn to spotted adults, originally thought to be two different species.


List as Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. For the past 15 years, Atantis has been a member of the AZA Zebra Shark Studbook Group, a collaborative effort among accredited institutions and conservation partners to track the population's genetic and demographic identity.

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