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Researchers Explore New Breeding Ground For Hammerhead Sharks

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers the hammerhead shark an endangered species. They are not particularly fertile reproducers, and combined with a demand for their fins in Asia, the species is vulnerable.

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A scientist holds a hammerhead shark pup at a recently discovered nursery in Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, in this handout photo provided by the Galapagos National Park, Feb. 25, 2019. VOA

Researchers have found a new breeding ground for hammerhead sharks off the coast of Ecuador’s Galapagos archipelago.

The head of the team of researchers, Eduardo Espinosa, said the natural refuge off the island of Santa Cruz is home to about 20 of the sharks. The team managed to attach monitors to five of them.

“That site, where the babies spent two or three years, is important not only for the Galapagos but on a world scale, because it gives hope for the protection and conservation of a species,” Espinosa said.

The team hopes to monitor the sharks in an effort to protect both the predators and their environment.

A hammerhead shark nursery, recently discovered in Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, is seen in this Feb. 25, 2019 handout photo provided by the Galapagos National Park.
A hammerhead shark nursery, recently discovered in Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, is seen in this Feb. 25, 2019 handout photo provided by the Galapagos National Park. VOA

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers the hammerhead shark an endangered species. They are not particularly fertile reproducers, and combined with a demand for their fins in Asia, the species is vulnerable.

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Marine biologist Alex Hearn of San Francisco University in Quito said researchers believed that the hammerheads gave birth along continental coasts, so the discovery of the island nursery opens new lines of study. (VOA)

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Hundreds of Sharks Tangle in Oceans Plastic Waste

Almost 60 per cent of these animals were either lesser spotted dogfish, spotted ratfish or spiny dogfish

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The true number is likely to be far higher as few studies have focussed on plastic entanglement among shark and rays, said the researchers. Pixabay

Hundreds of sharks and rays are tangled in plastic waste in oceans across the world, researchers said.

According to the study published in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists from the University of Exeter scoured existing published studies and Twitter for posts on shark and ray entanglements and found reports of more than 1,000 entangled individuals.

The true number is likely to be far higher as few studies have focussed on plastic entanglement among shark and rays, said the researchers.

“Due to threats of direct over-fishing of sharks and rays and ‘bycatch’ (accidental catching while fishing for other species), the issue of entanglement has perhaps gone a little under the radar,” said Brendan Godley, Professor at the University of Exeter.

Sharks, Oceans, Plastic Waste
Hundreds of sharks and rays are tangled in plastic waste in oceans across the world, researchers said. Pixabay

The research says such entanglement – mostly involving lost or discarded fishing gear – is a “far lesser threat” to sharks and rays than commercial fishing, but the suffering it causes is a major animal welfare concern.

In the study, researchers found reports of 557 sharks and rays entangled in plastic, spanning 34 species in oceans including the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian. Almost 60 per cent of these animals were either lesser spotted dogfish, spotted ratfish or spiny dogfish.

On Twitter, the researchers found 74 entanglement reports involving 559 individual sharks and rays from 26 species including whale sharks, great whites, tiger sharks and basking sharks.

Both data sources suggested “ghost” fishing gear (nets, lines and other equipment lost or abandoned) were by far the most common entangling objects. Other items included strapping bands used in packaging, polythene bags and rubber tyres.

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The study also identified factors such as habitat, migration and body shape that appear to put certain species more at risk. (IANS)