Endangered shark becomes bait as local fishermen split prize

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ENDANGERED: Thresher sharks are suffering from over-fishing.

FISHERMEN working off Burriana beach in Nerja have come under heavy criticism from environmentalists and marine biologists in the wake of the butchering of an adult thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus) after it was caught ‘accidentally.’

The incident occurred last week, after the four-metre animal, which apparently weighed some 400 kilos, became ensnared in a trammel net, a three-layered static arrangement used to entangle fishes and crustaceans.

Several boats became involved in order to muster the force to drag the shark to shore, where it was carved into pieces and distributed to various local businesses.

Threshers are highly-valued and considered a delicacy, but also classified as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which publishes a Red List detailing the conservation status of species worldwide.

The species is protected by national and international law and its capture is prohibited in Spain, although largely unregulated fishing in the Mediterranean has caused its numbers to decline by ‘at least’ 60 per cent in the last 45 years alone.

Despite growing to over five metres in length, the thresher is not considered dangerous to humans since it has a small mouth and is adapted to feed on small fish.

Francisco Pinto, a shark specialist working at the Aula del Mar museum in Malaga city, said that although it is very unusual to see this species so close to the coast, an individual was captured in the port of Caleta de Velez a few years ago and seized by the Fisheries Inspectorate of the Junta de Andalucia.

“On some occasions we have seen specimens lurking around the mouths of ports, such as Benalmadena, but never on the beaches,” he added. “It is a shame that there are still unscrupulous types who do business via the capture and sale of endangered sharks.”

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