When you think of Shark Week, the chances are that you're picturing a great white or a hammerhead shark. Or, if you’re thinking about the ancient oceans, you’re likely picturing the Megalodon thanks to Shark Week. But the handful of celebrity shark species that get the most attention this week don't even begin to cover the incredible range of shark and ray species out there.
You may not have heard of sawfish, an incredibly unique looking family of rays. As a flat fish with a long toothed snout (rostrum) lined with teeth that looks like a saw, sawfish have earned their name. Despite their large size (up to 20 feet long!) and those intimidating teeth, sawfish are in trouble.
Sharks and rays in the Mediterranean have something to be happy about this week—10 species now have special protections under the Barcelona Convention.
These 10 species—including hammerheads and shortfin makos—have suffered significant population losses. Shark and ray numbers have declined and some species are nowhere to be seen in areas where they were once common.
Today’s decision allows the EU to formalize protection for these important predators. It’s a step in the right direction for the EU, which recently delayed measures that would have limited overfishing in European waters.
“These vulnerable sharks and rays have been granted the legal protection that they urgently require,” according to Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research at Oceana Europe. Now that the legal protections are in place, the next step will depend on locating where the protected species remain in the Mediterranean, and implementing strict protection measures in those areas.
Sharks and rays are some of the oldest fish in the ocean—the oldest shark relative is estimated to be up to 450 million years old. And now some species have lost 99% of their population in just the last century. Overfishing is a huge threat to these living fossils, and if we want them to be around in the future, we have to act now.
Today’s FOTD is on the Pacific angel shark. While Pacific angel sharks may closely resemble rays, a few distinctive characteristics define them as sharks. First, the pectoral fins of Pacific angel sharks are partially separated from their heads, while rays have pectoral fins that are entirely attached to their heads.
Also, these sharks have gill slits on the sides of their heads, while rays have gills on the bottom of their heads. Finally, the mouth of the Pacific angel shark is on the front of its head, rather than on the bottom of its head like a ray’s mouth.
Pacific angel sharks are the perfect marine example of why you can’t judge a book by its cover!
Be sure to check out Oceana.org/Explore for your weekend fact fix and I’ll see you Monday!