The capture Sunday of a giant basking shark off Australia has drawn the ire of conservationists, but represents an opportunity for scientists to study this rare and mysterious species.
The 20-foot shark was hauled up by the crew of a trawler off Portland, in Victoria, and was dead by the time it reached the surface. It was a surprise catch because basking sharks typically roam waters far beyond Australia’s continental shelf.
These are plankton-eating filter feeders and the world’s second-largest fish, behind whale sharks, capable of reaching lengths of nearly 30 feet.
Little is known about the migration patterns of basking sharks, but they’re found in temperate seas around the world, and the overfished species is labeled “vulnerable” by the IUCN red list.
This helps to explain why there’s an outcry every time one of these gentle giants is caught hauled up by fishermen using indiscriminate gear, such as trawling nets.
“While bycatch of other species such as dolphins has declined after highly publicized campaigns to protect them, the undeserved bad reputation of sharks is slowing down efforts to protect them from this wasteful and destructive practice,” an unidentified spokesperson for Save Our Sharks, an Australian conservation group, is quoted as saying in The Independent.
On Museum Victoria’s Facebook page, many of the comments were critical of the capture, despite the boon the catch is said to represent for scientists.
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SOURCE: GrindTV, Pete Thomas