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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rare magamouth shark caught

So rare are these sharks that each of them is designated with a number.

But sadly the 41st specimen of the megamouth shark has been caught, killed and eaten by fisherman in the Philippines.

According to the WWF the locals were trawling for mackerel along the eastern coast of Burias Isle on March 30 when they caught the giant shark from a depth of 200 metres.

The shark was brought to Barangay Dancalan in Donsol, Sorsogon where WWF Donsol Project Manager Elson Aca identified it as a megamouth.

Despite pleas, the fishermen butchered the megamouth and sauteed it in coconut milk.

Rarest of all sharks, the megamouth (Megachasma pelagios) is a fairly recent scientific discovery, with just over 40 recorded encounters worldwide.

The first specimen was caught off Oahu, Hawaii in 1976 and was hailed as the 20th century’s most significant marine find.

Megamouth 41, as named by the Florida Museum of Natural History, measured four metres and weighed an estimated 500 kilograms. Facial scars indicated a protracted struggle with the fishers’ gill-nets while stomach contents revealed it was feeding on shrimp larvae.

A tagging project almost 20 years ago indicated that the sharks spend the daytime in waters up to a kilometre deep and surface only at night to feed on plankton, small fish and jellyfish

Only last month WWF found and rescued a 15-inch baby whale shark.

“The presence of two of the world’s three filter feeding sharks warrants special attention for the Donsol-Masbate region,” said Aca.

“Whale and megamouth sharks, manta rays, dolphins and other charismatic giants indicate that the region’s ecosystem is still relatively healthy. By protecting megafauna, we help maintain the dynamic balance of our seas, and ensure the entire ecosystem’s resilience and natural productivity.”

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