Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans

News, Research

Sharks in the Dark: Conservation of Deep Sea Sharks

Charismatic large sharks like great whites, tigers and bulls are the sharks that get most attention and make headlines. But there are around 450 species of sharks! Even today, new species are discovered.

But many sharks remain ‘invisible’. They live in the dark deep ocean, and are hardly ever observed. But when they are seen, it is often on board of fishing vessels… There is not much knowledge about this sharks, but several species are fished commercially. As there are not sufficient data about the numbers and species, the oceans could lose species that are not even known yet.

Rare “Prehistoric” Goblin Shark Caught in Japan. Picture credit: National Geographic Magazine

This year, a deep sea shark nursery was discovered in Scotland. There is an urgent need to protect areas like these to preserve species. But where are they? Where do they travel? Where do they breed?

One of the research projects carried out in this field is in Australia. Last year, scientists from the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship fitted acoustic tags to 50 gulper sharks, swellsharks and green eye dogfish near Port Lincoln, South Australia. The sharks will be tracked for the next three years by a network of 24 acoustic listening stations moored 100 metres off the complex and steep seabed. Four listening stations raised for an early preview have detected a flurry of activity, receiving 5700 acoustic ‘pings’ in five days from 42 of the sharks moving in all directions.

In the Bahamas, scientists of the Cape Eleuthera Institute are exploring the deep sea with the submarine ‘Medusa’. An enormous variety of weird and wonderful creatures make the deep sea their home, including many species of sharks. In a new project they hope to discover more about deep sea sharks. Project leader Edd Brooks: “About half of all known species of sharks make this cold, dark high pressure environment their home, and new deep water species are being described all the time. Basic information about the taxonomy, biology and ecology of these animals is virtually non-existent, yet they are already being harvested by commercial fisheries. They are probably much more sensitive to fishing pressure than all other fish.”

Dive into the deep with us, and watch some deepwater shark videos in the gallery below!

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More information:

Discovery of a Deep Sea Shark Nursery in Scotland
Deep Sea Sharks Wired for Science
Medusa: Scientists document rarely seen deepwater sharks using baited video cameras

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