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Endangered Shark in Southern Africa Has Extended Its Range, Scientists Find

27th January 2021
The shorttail nurse shark - so name due to its small size – grows to approximately 75 centimetres (30 inches) and is found in coral reefs The shorttail nurse shark - so name due to its small size – grows to approximately 75 centimetres (30 inches) and is found in coral reefs

Marine scientists have found that a critically endangered shark in southern African has been identified in waters over 2,000 km away from its usual habitat.

The scientists led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) say that information and images dating back two years show that the endangered shorttail nurse shark (Pseudoginglymostoma brevicaudatum) is alive in waters off Mozambique

This represents a range extension of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,242 miles), from the coast of Tanzania, and 1,100 kilometres (683 miles) westward from Madagascar across the Mozambique Channel.

A paper published in the journal Marine Biodiversity says the discovery is based on underwater video surveys collected in 2019, recent photos of shore-based sport anglers’ catches, and the identification of a specimen collected in 1967.

The shorttail nurse shark - so name due to its small size – grows to approximately 75 centimetres (30 inches) and is found in coral reefs.

Coastal fisheries and habitat degradation are said to have influenced its decline in numbers, estimated at more than 80 per cent over the last 30 years.

The scientists state that one of the records of the shark - from Mozambique’s Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve - suggests that the species benefits from some degree of protection within a large coastal marine protected area (MPA).

However, the species range within Mozambique may span a large proportion of the country’s unprotected coral reef habitat, they note, with no specific regulations on its catch – apart from a listing on the Kenya threatened and protected species records.

The researchers recommend that the species should be considered for legal protection in Mozambique and throughout its limited range, and improved management measures should be initiated to reduce targeted and incidental catch.

WCS works on shark conservation around the world, and highlights how much of the global trade in both shark fins, and other products such as meat, is unregulated and is threatening many species with extinction.

This research was conducted in partnership with the Mozambique Instituto Nacional de Investigação Pesqueira, and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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