The Greenland shark has been swimming slowly through time immemorial - and in danger of extinction

The Greenland shark has been swimming slowly through time immemorial – and in danger of extinction

Everything about the Greenland Shark is slow, deep and long. There are some – many, perhaps, but it is difficult to count – who were alive before the Dutch colonized the Cape of Good Hope and will continue to outlive all human beings on earth.

The oldest one on record, captured and killed, it embarrasses me as a human being to say, was over 400 years old. They are the longest-lived vertebrate animals known to science.

At the birth of this now dead Shark, an English Civil War was raging between the Roundheads and the Royalists. While Shark was still a puppy, Europe had entered the Renaissance and the Mughal Empire was consolidating its conquest of India.

A hundred years later, in the year 1700, when it was still young, Europe was in the middle of the Enlightenment, and as it approached middle age, the Industrial Revolution began. At that point, he was already old enough to reproduce.

When he was 200 years old and at the height of reproduction, the Anglo-Boers were happening. For this fish of the Arctic Ocean, it was World War II a while ago and the Martian lander yesterday.

About the future of the Greenland shark, there is good and bad news.

The good news is that in September 2022, after years of bargaining and calls for more information, the intergovernmental Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization banned the keeping of Greenland sharks in international waters and called for any fish caught to be treated with caution and returned to the ocean.

Ban wasn’t on the front page – it wasn’t a fish anyone cared too much for.

Greenland shark

Greenland shark as bycatch. (photo: attached)

The bad news is that hunting is not an exact science. Nets and hooks pull in whatever gets caught, and Greenland sharks are not exempt from what’s known as by-catch – unwanted and accidental capture.

There is another problem.

according For Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, these sharks “are good at playing dead. So they are often assumed dead and may not be treated with special care and it can also be difficult to get them off the net.”

Greenland shark

Greenland sharks get entangled in fishing nets. (photo: attached)

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has estimated About 3,500 Greenlanders are caught each year as bycatch by bottom trawls, longlines and gillnets in the northwest Atlantic, Arctic Ocean and Barents Sea.

If you take an average lifespan at about half of its potential lifespan, that equates to 700,000 years of life lost for this species.

This, along with historically targeted hunting pressure, has contributed to a decline of about 60% in the past 420 years. In 2020, the conservation status of the Greenland shark on the IUCN Red List worsened from near threatened to vulnerable.

Mysterious fish

We know almost nothing about Greenland sharks, but what we do know are the reasons for their vulnerability. They swim slowly, grow slowly, and mature slowly. They inhabit both abyssal depths, continental shelves and shoals, making them vulnerable to trawling, gillnets, and longlines.

that it estimated That before the ban, about 50,000 were arrested for supporting the liver oil industry (10 million years old cumulative). In 2012 it became mandatory to report shark catches in Greenland. The following year it was registered 22.2 tons; In 2016 it amounted to 210.2 tons.

As Arctic ice recedes and the planet warms, fishing boats are hurtling north to the shark’s primary habitat in Greenland. Ship noise is known to alter habitat decisions in the short and long term, affecting the overall distributions of species.

In terms of everyday life, science offers some clues — at a cost. Although its heart pumps between 12 and 20 beats per minute, it doesn’t slack off like a predator.

Researchers who slaughtered 39 sharks in Greenland Finding 25 different species of fish – and erasing a possible 8,000 years to discover it.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about [Greenland sharks]Arctic Fisheries Adviser Bryn Devine Environmental news website Mongabay.

“How many there are, their abundance, their demographics… We have no idea where they go to mate, or where they go to get their young.

“We don’t know how many pups they have or how often they breed. This makes conservation planning particularly challenging because these are the things you need to know to understand how vulnerable a species is to things like bycatch.”

Greenland shark population belief It was stable for more than five million years until humans started deep sea fishing. In the past 100 years, in addition to hunting, it has had to deal with ship traffic, seismic explosions, pollution, and climate change.

In a way, it’s a poster fish for our destruction of marine life — a milestone for humans’ impact on the planet.

Out of sight is generally out of mind and three-quarters of our planet lives there. But if this long, sluggish shark went extinct, it would be akin to losing every single elephant, lion or polar bear. DM

To read all about The Gathering: Earth Edition recently published by the Daily Maverick, click here here.


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