A Lifetime of Sharks

By Mahnoor Hussain

2021 – 2022 Parks Canada Youth Ambassador

When we hear about sharks, there are always a lot of mixed emotions that come up. Some people may feel nervous, scared, or just excited. For me, I can say that I am definitely one of those people who channelled the typical fear of Sharks into utter excitement.

I have had quite an experience with sharks since my childhood. Growing up near the salty waters of Jacksonville, Florida, I spent a lot of time reading shark tales and watching them swim around the ocean from the beach docks. Everyday after school, my parents would take us to the nearby beach where we could walk along the pier and watch the waves. People also used to fish on the pier and always had interesting catches. While walking along the pier one afternoon, there was a big commotion and a lot of people who gathered around a fisherman. It was to our surprise that a great white shark had caught on to his fishing line! They reeled it up so they could try to unhook it from the fishing line and release it back to the sea. I was in complete awe seeing a shark so big right in front of my 5 year old self. It is no surprise that shortly after this, I became a huge fan of sharks. I did not feel scared or worried, but felt a passion that striked me to keep learning and exploring.

Mahnoor and her little sister Yumnah at the Coastal Georgia Ocean Festival, 2006.

After moving from the United States to Canada in 2007, the beach experiences were quite different. With a difference of species and colder water, it was easy to tell that beach life here was not the same. It was often too cold to go swim in the water afterschool. There were not many seashells hiding in the sand anymore. But nonetheless, I began to find beauty in the beaches around my new home in Canadian Waters.

A few years down the line when I was close to finishing highschool, I got my first job at the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, right in the heart of downtown Toronto. Although I was not working directly with marine life, I was able to learn so much from my coworkers and the marine biologists there. My curiosity was just gleaming everytime I had a conversation. I developed an interest in learning about the large variety of sharks they had at the aquarium, specifically the bamboo sharks. They always seemed so unbothered and friendly with the other fish, I couldn’t help but explore more. My strong interest in these sharks led me to a life changing experience that allowed me to swim with the sharks and stingrays in one of the aquariums large tanks. I never thought that I would have the courage or even the experience to swim with a tank full of sharks. Safe to say that my passion had led to something extraordinary.

Ever since then, I realized that I will always have a connection to water and different shark species. I have taken my interest to almost every workplace and hope to share my passion with others. For this year’s Shark week, I am hoping to inspire others to explore the nature of something that you connect with and see where it can take you. Nature really is for All. That includes people and other species we share the planet with. Learning more about these species and how they interact with the world can help us to better understand them. I am also hoping that people can see a different perspective of sharks and that it does not match the typical perception of fear that others have developed. They are species just like us. They eat, play, and live just like us. Let’s get to know more about them!

Happy Shark Week Everyone!