More than half of shark species in the Mediterranean at risk: WWF

More than half of the 86 shark species in the Mediterranean sea are at risk of being wiped out due to careless fishing practices, the World Wildlife Federation warned on Thursday.

More than half of shark species in the Mediterranean at risk: WWF
A great white shark. Photo: Elias Levy/Flickr

The accidental capture of sharks in trawl nets or fishing gear meant for commercial fishing is widespread, with sharks making up an estimated 10-15% of the fish caught by longlines intended for swordfish and tuna, according to La Stampa.

In 2015 an estimated 14.065 tons of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean were accidentally caught up in nets used by large trawlers, a phenomenon that also threatens dolphins, whales, sea turtles, and even sea birds.

The shark meat is then sometimes passed off as legal swordfish meat at market fish stalls, posing a food security risk.

READ ALSO: Mediterranean could become a 'sea of plastic', warns WWF

The WWF raised the alarm at the launch of its SafeSharks project at the 2018 Barcolana sailing regatta in the northeastern Italian port city of Trieste, which runs from October 5th to 14th and is now in its 50th year.

The SafeSharks project, a collaboration between the WWF and the organisations Coispa and Inca, will work with local fishermen and marine biologists to conduct research aimed at discovering the best way to release accidentally-caught sharks back into the sea in order to maximise their chances of survival.

Before being released back into the sea, the captured sharks will be tagged with a satellite tracking device that will provide researchers with information about their lifespan and movements, with the aim of securing areas used by the sharks for spawning and as nurseries.

As the devices cost approximately €5,000 a piece, the foundation is also launching a fundraising campaign to raise money for the programme.

The project also features the installation of interactive informational exhibits in science museums and other protected marine areas along the Adriatic coast, including at Marine Bio-BioMa, the Miramare Scuderie in Trieste (a WWF-managed reserve), the Adriatic Zoological Museum in Chioggia, and the Porto Cesareo Reserve in Puglia. 




Shark sightings and minor attacks on the rise as bathers return to Spanish beaches

The lockdown and Storm Gloria have facilitated the return of marine species to seawaters which were previously dominated by human activities.

Shark sightings and minor attacks on the rise as bathers return to Spanish beaches
Photos: Wikimedia

Just days after Spain allowed its 46 million inhabitants to head to the country’s beaches for the first time in more than two months, a number of shark encounters have showcased how quickly the animal kingdom can regain territory. 

There have been more than 15 sightings of basking sharks (the second largest shark in the world) along Spain’s Mediterranean coast so far this spring.

Spain’s Civil Guard captured images of one of these enormous creatures, which measure up to eight metres in length but are not considered a threat to humans.

On the Canary island of Tenerife, another marine species – the angel shark or monkfish (see below)– has been swimming in shallow waters where up until recently only beachgoers would be found.

There have been four attacks in just three days, with experts warning the public they shouldn’t interact with the creatures as they bite when they feel threatened.

“The drop in maritime traffic and fishing activities as a result of the confinement measures have a lot to do with the increase in shark sightings, ” Claudio Barría, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC) in Barcelona, told Telecinco.

“Some studies indicate that Storm Gloria (a storm which brought gail-force winds and heavy rainfall to Spain in January) could have increased the amount of plankton in the Mediterranean, attracting more sharks that feed off it”.