THE largest ever shark caught off the Irish coast has been hauled in from the sea by three local anglers and a team of scientists.
A porbeagle shark measuring 9ft long and weighing 500lbs was caught and released off the Donegal coast last week.
The record-breaking female shark, which is close relative of the Great White, is likely to be around 25-30 years old and has been nicknamed Danu by the team.
Porbeagle sharks are considered to be “critically endangered”.
Despite their huge size they are not considered to be dangerous to humans and very few attacks have been recorded.
Local anglers Sid, Terry and Peter from Counties Cork, Down and Antrim respectively, worked together to catch the giant “porgie”.
Once the beast was caught, it was transferred to the scientists’ vessel, so the team led by Trinity College Dublin, could quickly measure it and attach two different types of satellite tag as well as take samples to examine its reproductive status.
Danu was then released in a healthy condition back into the sea.
One of the satellite tags will send back a wealth of information detailing her migration history and ocean conditions encountered before it detaches after several months.
A second ‘SPOT’ tag provides near real-time data on her location whenever her fin breaks the water surface – a trait of porbeagles.
Nearly 48 hours after she had been released a satellite tag revealed she had almost reached the Hebrides in Scotland.
Nick Payne, a shark biologist and Assistant Professor at Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, told the Irish Mirror is was a significant moment.
“It is exciting to see such huge porbeagles in Irish waters.
“The conservation status of porbeagles has been really concerning in this part of the world, with the European population considered critically endangered.
“There’s evidence that the Donegal coast may act as a globally important reproductive area for this species, with lots of very large female sharks appearing here for a short period in spring.”
The voyage last week was the first in a research collaboration between Trinity, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), and local shark anglers, along with leading scientists from James Cook University (Australia), University of Miami, and US non-profit Beneath the Waves.
Dr Payne said: “This was an incredible start to an important new project, where we will work with the local shark angling community to learn as much as we can about porbeagle movements and their reproductive dynamics in Irish waters.
“If this is an important breeding location then we need to know about it, so we can monitor and conserve the animals as best we can when they visit our shores.”
Another member of the team, PhD student Jenny Bortoluzzi, at Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, took blood samples from the shark.
She said: “This highlights once again both the importance of collaboration between scientists and anglers in a citizen science context, and Ireland’s potential key role in conservation as a marine biodiversity hotspot.”
PORBEAGLE SHARKS IN DECLINE
Stocks of the porbeagle shark have been in decline since the 1930s due to overfishing.
Commercial fishing by EU vessels has been banned under EU regulations since 2010.
The International Council for Exploration of the Sea considers there to be just a single stock in the Northeast Atlantic,
Willie Roche, IFI Senior Scientist, said: “Understanding the movements and migrations of porbeagles, especially large females which we are targeting for tagging, will contribute immensely to identifying potential challenges to their continued survival, as well as piecing together their seasonal patterns.
“The satellite tagging data is complemented by IFI’s long running Marine Sportfish Tagging Programme, which uses conventional tags to tag mainly elasmobranchs. The role of anglers in both these tagging initiatives highlights the importance of their contribution to targeted tagging studies and, as active marine environment observers, to ongoing monitoring of elasmobranch species generally.”
A second female porbeagle, nicknamed Sorcha, was also tagged and released during the trip with the team saying she was spending more time cruising around the same region where she was captured.
The research team hopes to tag more porbeagles in the near future.
A whopping 10ft porbeagle shark was caught by a fisherman off the coast of Cornwall in April last year.
In February this year fears were raised by an expert that Great Whites could be living off the UK coast.
Although there have been no confirmed sightings it is suspected shark appearances often go unverified.
Chris Fischer, founder and expedition leader for shark tracker organisation Ocearch, says the mighty creatures could be “all around us”.
Speaking to the Daily Express, he said: “These things are super nervous, super shy. They’re more afraid of us than we are of them.
“They’re all around us and we never see them. They’re ghosts, they don’t want to be seen.”
In August last year the beach at Boscombe, Dorset, was evacuated after a sighting close to swimmers.
It came after a dad claimed his son was lucky to be alive after what he believed was a shark brushed past his leg in a terrifying encounter in the sea at Bournemouth.
Meanwhile, fishing charter boat skipper Tom Walker, 30, revealed he had caught a porbeagle and a thresher shark just ten miles along the coast at Christchurch.
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Source: The Sun