Rare deepwater shark caught in Oro shore

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Residents in Barangay Cugman are amazed to see a megamouth shark, a rare species of deepwater shark, which was caught by a fisherman near the shore of Barangay Cugman here on Monday morning. (Contributed photo)

ONE of the world’s rarest sharks was caught by fishermen in the nearby shore of Barangay Cugman in Cagayan de Oro City Monday morning.

It is believed to be the 59th species of the megamouth shark seen by humans. The megamouth is an extremely rare species of deepwater shark according to Wikipedia.

Animal bone enthusiast and expert Darrell Blatchley, American curator and owner of D' Bone Collector Museum in Davao City, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro in an interview at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in northern Mindanao (BFAR-10) office Tuesday that the megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) is one of the rarest fishes in the world.

"In my 20 years as a collector, I have seen various species of dolphins and whales. This is my first time seeing this kind of shark. It was strange. So lucky to have seen a megamouth shark in [the] flesh," he said.

Rey Eduardo Hojas, officer-in-charge of Fish Health Laboratory at BFAR-10, told this paper by phone Monday that the shark is a female filter feeder mammal that eats plankton, and jellyfish.

Filter feeders can play an important role in clarifying water, and are considered ecosystem engineers.

Filter feeding sharks along with manta rays and dolphins indicate that the region's marine ecosystem is still relatively healthy and should continue to be protected, Hojas said.

The 500-kilogram, 18-feet megamouth died while struggling in the fisherman's net Monday morning.

According to the fisherman who caught the megamouth, the shark was already feeble when he caught it.

Data deficient

Blatchley and Hojas cannot identify the possible reason why the shark came near the shore.

When sharks are ailing they usually take shelter near the shore. This is not the surest reason but this has been the trend, Hojas said.

A circular scar was found at her caudal fin which Blatchley believed is a mark of a shark's teeth. However, he dismissed possibilities of this scar as the primary cause of her death.

The age of the shark cannot be identified since the reproduction of the species remains unknown to science.

Due to the lack of information concerning population status, the megamouth is considered "data deficient" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

A data deficient species indicates that little or no information is available on the abundance and distribution of the species.

BFAR classified the species as edible, however, it does not advise the residents to eat the meat of the shark since the cause of death has remained unknown.

Before burying the shark, Blatchley scalped off the skin and will have it stuffed to be displayed in his museum.

Some parts of the shark were sent to BFAR central office for further examination.

Blatchley first visited Misamis Oriental when he asked for the remains of a dolphin in Lagonglong last year.

Before this, a dolphin and a whale shark were also found in the shores of Tagoloan and Villanueva, Misamis Oriental recently.

Blatchley vowed to seek the help of American laboratory centers to further study the species.

41st megamouth

The last megamouth seen in the Philippine seas was in Burias Island in Masbate. It was tagged “Megamouth 41” since it is the 41st megamouth recorded in the world, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The megamouth shark was first discovered off Hawaii coast in 1976.

According to Wikipedia, on May 7, 2014 a 3.96 m (13 ft) 1,500 lbs female shark was captured at a depth of 2,600 ft off the coast of Shizuoka, Japan. The body was dissected in front of the public, by staff at the Marine Science Museum in Shizuoka City, Japan. It was the 58th sighted in the world.

Quoting an article from wildlife conservation site arkive.org, a TV network website reported that the megamouth is “one of the most mysterious and least understood of all the sharks.”
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