Rare Megamouth Shark Found Entangled in Fishing Gear in Liberia

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The megamouth shark is one of the most elusive in the oceans (Photo: Tom Haight/Seapics.com)

The carcass of the world's most elusive sharks, the megamouth, was recently found entangled in an abandoned fishing net in Libera. The discovery adds to a tally of approximately 120 documented occasions in which a megamouth has been encountered, and only the second time in West Africa, according to local news sources.

The shark was found on 26 March by a fisherman from the town of Harper in southeastern Liberia. The discovery was reported to scientists at Liberia's Environmental Justice Foundation who identified the animal as a male megamouth shark measuring 3.8m in length - almost fully-grown.

Megamouth sharks (Megachasma pelagios) were unknown to science until 1976, when the first recorded specimen was accidentally caught in the anchor of a US Navy vessel off the coast of Hawai'i. They are deep-water fish and have since been observed tropical and sub-tropical waters across the world, although most sightings have been concentrated around the waters of Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. Megamouths one of only three extant species of filter-feeding sharks, the others being the basking shark and whale shark.

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The Liberian sighting is one of only two known sightings of the megamouth shark in West African waters, after one was caught by fishermen in Senegal in 1995. Megamouths are currently listed as being 'of least concern' by the IUCN Red List, a designation given because there is so little data about the sharks. 

'This animal’s discovery in Liberia’s coastal waters reiterates the need to better understand our oceans and all life within them,' states a report on the EJF website, 'and the need, perhaps above all, for a "precautionary approach" to protect the lives we don’t yet understand.'

Want to know more about Megamouth Sharks? Here are some quick facts:

 

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