Artists passionate about shark and ray conservation have been called in by the Shark Trust to contribute to a touring exhibition of paintings, drawings, sculptures and digital media. Each of the 31 contributions represents an individual open-ocean species.
The Oceanic 31 exhibition, which forms part of the UK charity’s Big Shark Pledge campaign, starts its tour at Trebah Garden near Falmouth in Cornwall, though it can also be experienced virtually in 360°, says the Shark Trust.
The number of species featured is not random, it says, but based on 31 oceanic sharks and rays that had their status reviewed in 2021. Of those 31, 24 are now classed as Threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List.
Species such as the great white or whale shark are well-known, says the trust, but it also wants to spotlight less familiar species, such as the longhorned pygmy devil ray (Mobula eregoodoo). Featuring all 31 in the exhibition was seen as a means of showcasing pelagic shark and ray diversity.
In international waters the animals are currently at heightened risk from over-exploitation because of a lack of agreed management and/or enforcement of regulation.
The Big Shark Pledge is a long-term collaborative effort aimed at building what the trust describes as “one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation”. This international community would apply pressure on governments and fisheries, and, it hopes, see in the positive changes required to safeguard sharks and rays.
“This exhibition gives us the opportunity to reach out to a new audience and inspire more people with the wonderful sharks and rays on which our Big Shark Pledge campaign is based,” says Shark Trust CEO Paul Cox. “We are immensely grateful to the 31 artists who have worked so hard to create these works and to Trebah Garden for giving us an opportunity to bring them together for the first time.”
The Oceanic 31 exhibition remains at Trebah Garden until 15 July, moving on to the Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port from 25 August to 4 September. It will continue touring for 18 months, with dates and venues announced on the Shark Trust website.
Limited edition prints of some of the artworks are available to buy for £35, with raffle tickets on sale for a final auction for a chance of owning an original, with all profits going to the Big Shark Pledge campaign. To find out more or visit the panoramic virtual exhibition, visit the Shark Trust Oceanic 31 site.