Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sharks in Malta Part II - A killer reputation

The vast majority of sharks and rays frequenting Maltese waters are innocuous to humans, and even the largest of them is a timid filter-feeder - this is the legally protected basking shark - Cetorhinus maximus (Gunnerus, 1765).

The species after larger prey, such as the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias Smith, 1838), may attack humans on occasion, and such one-off cases are so easy to sensationalize that the shark is now perceived as dangerous and fear-inspiring. Coupled with overfishing and pollution, this reputation has had grave consequences for shark populations around the world - both species mentioned above are considered as vulnerable by the IUCN.

The following photographs are some archival finds documenting well-publicised shark catches in Malta throughout the years. Hopefully, awareness and education about the true nature of sharks will help keep such actions restricted to a few old pictures.

Alopias vulpinus (Bonnaterre, 1788) - off Gozo, 2000


Isurus oxyrhincus Rafinesque, 1810 - 10km off Ġnejna, 2005


Hexanchus griseus (Bonnaterre, 1778) - off Marsaxlokk (2008?)


Carcharodon carcharias Smith, 1838 - off Filfla, 1987

References:

Fergusson, I., Compagno, L. J. V. & Marks, M., 2005. Carcharodon carcharias. In: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2010.1. [WWW Document, url - www.iucnredlist.org; last accessed 03.VI.2010]

Fowler, S. L., 2005. Cetorhinus maximus. In: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2010.1. [WWW Document, url - www.iucnredlist.org; last accessed 03.VI.2010]

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