Scientists Discover Rare Nursery for Baby Hammerhead Sharks

Scientists are marveling over the discovery of a nursery for endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks hidden away in the Galápagos Islands.

“It was quite by chance that we found this natural nursery for baby hammerheads, a species that is under a high level of threat,” Eduardo Espinoza, a Galápagos National Park biologist who monitors ecosystems, told AFP. “It is a unique area, of great interest to conservationists.”

The nursery was found along the coast of Santa Cruz Island, one of the main islands in the archipelago, off the Pacific coast of South America.

Espinoza explained that females arrive and give birth before leaving, while the pups have all the food and shelter they need among the reefs where they’ll stay for a year or two before moving out to the open ocean.

Espinoza and his team are now working to study and tag baby hammerheads there in an effort to learn more about them, and to boost conservation efforts to protect them.

“This finding is very important for Galapagos and the region because there are very few sites detected as hammerhead shark breeding areas in the Eastern Tropical Pacific ― and in Galapagos, it is the first,” said Espinoza.

The discovery in a protected area is certainly promising for scalloped hammerhead sharks who are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their slow growth and low reproductive rates make them particularly vulnerable to exploitation, while their fins make them a highly targeted species, particularly for shark fin soup.

The threats to their survival led to scalloped hammerheads becoming the first species of shark to receive protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2014.

In 2016, the government of Ecuador, which oversees the Galápagos, has created a 15,000 square mile sanctuary zone where fishing is banned to protect sharks and other species and has imposed heavy fees and penalties for violations, but sharks are far-ranging. Scientists hope that by tracking individuals, they’ll be able to learn more about their behaviors and where they’re going, which will hopefully lead to greater protection.

“These studies, sometimes using satellite tracking, alert us to where these sharks are being caught when they leave the marine reserve, and allow us to notify other countries so they can help us protect them,” said Jose Marin, a biologist at the Charles Darwin Foundation.

Hopefully more awareness about how vital sharks are to healthy oceans will help improve efforts to protect scalloped hammerhead sharks and other species from the threats they’re facing.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

112 comments

Sheila Miller
Sheila Miller5 months ago

Please protect the sharks from people. May they continue to thrive. Thank you for sharing.

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bob P
bob P5 months ago

We can only hope that an endangered species can find a way to stay away from their biggest threat. Humans. Thanks for sharing

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Daniela M
Daniela M5 months ago

PLEASE PROTECT IT BY ALL MEANS NECESSARY!!!! Oftentimes, it's best to not give out locations where other beings actually have respite from human voraciousness.

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Sharon Koogler
Sharon Koogler5 months ago

Why the hell would you divulge the location?!!?! *smh*

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Danii P
Danii P5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Berenice Guedes de Sá

I hope they can e safe and protected from poachers!!!

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Lindsay K
Lindsay Kemp5 months ago

Thanks for sharing. Let's hope they stay safe!

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Judith S A
Judith S A5 months ago

So now the people who murder sharks know right where to go to find them. Good job

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Antje S
Antje S5 months ago

Thank you for sharing and raising awareness

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Lenore K
Lenore K5 months ago

ok

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