Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Shark Con looks to put some teeth in ocean enthusiasm

Swimming with sharks doesn’t scare Spencer Steward because “we are not on their menu.”

Swimming with sharks doesn’t scare Spencer Steward because “we are not on their menu.”

SEFFNER — Growing up in Huntsville, Ala., Spencer Steward remembers enjoying trips to Florida with his father, who worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Steward took a liking to the ocean and everything in it and went on to earn a degree in marine biology and biological oceanography from the University of Miami.

Now a Seffner resident, Steward can wax poetic about the intelligence of lemon sharks, which he says can perform tricks like dogs. He also is fond of whale sharks, because of how gentle the world's largest fish are, and sevengill sharks, because of how little we know about the deep-water creatures.

For the past 2 ½ years he has been planning a way to share his enthusiasm for the ocean so that children, like his three sons, Charlie, 11, Nick, 10, and Tyler, 9, can learn about conservation, research and education in an entertaining manner. The result is the inaugural Shark Con, a family-friendly event that will take place May 3 and 4 at the Tampa Convention Center.

"I wanted to create something like that for people who like the ocean," said Steward, 43.

He even went so far as to become an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church so he would have the authority to marry people at the event with a Jaws-themed wedding. For $200, you and your betrothed can have mermaids and pirates witness your nuptials, just like Darth Vader does for Star Wars fans.

He understands that most children like the cute, fuzzy animals, or might even be more interested in the work his wife, Sara, spearheads aiding rhinos at Busch Gardens. Enter multiple interactive touch tanks, more than 100 vendors and appearances from mermaids, Aquaman and pirates.

"Shark awareness and conservation is a big part of our mission," said Katherine Claytor, public relations manager at the Florida Aquarium, which is helping to sponsor the event. "We are honored to have the opportunity to share the message."

More than a dozen speakers devoted to raising awareness about sharks and ocean conservation are lined up to lecture on their firsthand experiences, including Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Time magazine Hero of the Planet.

Lost 1980s shark movies The Last Shark, a Jaws ripoff, and Monster Shark, shot off the Florida coast, will be screened, and Steward hopes upward of 10,000 will attend and help make the Tampa Bay area the mecca for shark aficionados by turning this into an annual gathering.

"I wanted to do some good and educate people," said Steward, who has swum with sharks all over the world and said he never felt endangered because "we are not on their menu."

One-day tickets cost $19.99 for adults and $4.99 for children and can be purchased at shark-con.com. Proceeds go toward the Florida Aquarium, where Steward volunteers, Mote Marine Laboratory for shark research and the Shark Angels, a group dedicated to saving sharks from overfishing and poaching.

Eric Vician can be reached at ericvician@yahool.com.

. IF YOU GO

Shark Con

9 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 3 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 4 at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St. The event will include exhibits, speakers and "experiences" aimed at promoting the importance of sharks and the ocean. Tickets are $19.99 for adults and $4.99 for children. For information, go to shark-con.com.

Shark Con looks to put some teeth in ocean enthusiasm 04/25/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2014 2:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa man crashes into parked cars, gate at the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque

    Crime

    A Tampa man intentionally drove his pick-up truck into two parked vehicles before smashing through the locked gate of the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Shaun H. Urwiler, 42, was arrested July 16 for intentionally driving his pick-up truck into two parked vehicles before smashing through the locked gate of the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  2. USF hoops to play at Indiana in November

    Blogs

    The USF men's basketball team is set to get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse in non-conference play next season.

  3. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  4. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system

    Testing

    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  5. Tampa Bay woman, 11-year-old boy had sex up to 20 times the year their baby was born, detectives say.

    Crime

    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]