First Scalloped Hammerhead Nursery Discovered
Researchers in the Galápagos Islands have for the first time located a nursery for scalloped hammerhead sharks.
Eduardo Espinoza, the biologist in charge of monitoring ecosystems in the Galápagos Marine Reserve, said: ‘It was quite by chance that we found this natural nursery for baby hammerheads, a species that is under a high level of threat. It is a unique area, of great interest to conservationists.’
Espinoza and his team found the sheltered spot off Santa Cruz island in November and are now are returning to collect data and attach tracking devices to the young sharks.
‘The females arrive to give birth and then leave,’ he said. ‘The young have all the food they need here and the reefs afford protection from large predators.’
After one or two years feeding on crustaceans, they head for the open ocean and can travel for thousands of kilometres, growing as long as three meters and living for up to 50 years.
The park rangers have for years been monitoring and tagging hundreds of hammerhead sharks, one of the landmark species of the 138,000-sq-km marine reserve, the second-largest marine protected zone in the world.
Illegal fishing throughout the Eastern Tropical Pacific has put the scalloped hammerhead on the list of endangered species – two levels below extinction.
Jose Marin, a biologist at the Charles Darwin Foundation, said Ecuador was making ‘titanic efforts’ to conserve sharks.
‘These studies, sometimes using satellite tracking, alert us to where these sharks are being caught when they leave the marine reserve, and allow us to notify other countries so they can help us protect them,’ he said.
In August, a Chinese-flagged ship was intercepted in the Galápagos marine reserve with 300 tons of illegally caught fish, including some scalloped hammerheads.
The captain and his officers were given three years in jail, and the owners of the ship fined $6 million.