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“Extinct” Shark Appears at Middle Eastern Fish Markets

“Extinct” Shark Appears at Middle Eastern Fish Markets
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A shark that had been thought to be extinct for over 100 years began showing up in fish markets throughout the Middle East in 2008.

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Extinct Shark Found in Fish Market

A specimen of Carcharhinus leiodon, more commonly referred to as the smoothtooth blacktip shark, was found in a Kuwaiti fish market in 2008, and its identity was confirmed through DNA testing. The only other known example of the shark was caught in 1902, and was part of a collection assembled by naturalist William Hein almost 80 years ago. Hein’s 1902 specimen was originally caught off the coast of Yemen.

Since the rediscovery in 2008, 47 other smoothtooth blacktip shark have been found in fish markets throughout the Middle East due to fish market surveys.

Smoothtooth blacktip shark at fish market

A smoothtooth blacktip shark at a Middle Eastern fish market.

Despite the original 1902 discovery being the only known example prior to recent finds, the smoothtooth blacktip shark was officially listed as a species in 1985. Currently, the shark is thought to exist in very limited numbers in the Northern Indian Ocean and throughout the Gulf of Aden. These sharks are not intentionally fished, but are likely found as the by-catch of local fisherman.

Smoothtooth blacktip shark

Smoothtooth blacktip shark

Fish Market Surveys

Fish market surveys like the one that found the smoothtooth blacktip in Kuwait are fast becoming an important research tool that offers many advantages over the standard field work done by many scientists. Fleet fisherman cover a much larger area and frequent locales often overlooked by scientists.

Researchers now arrive at fish markets before dawn to examine the morning catch and isolate suspect specimens. The scientists then identify, photograph, measure, and test the fish before they are sold to the general public.

Bottom Line

In 2008, a shark thought to be extinct (the smoothtooth blacktip) was discovered in a Kuwaiti fish market by Shark Conservation Society researchers. Subsequently, 47 other smoothtooth blacktip shark specimen have been spotted in Middle Eastern fish markets. Fish market surveys, which resulted in the rediscovery of the smoothtooth blacktip, are considered to be a more effective mechanism of research than oceanic field sampling.

Updated February 23, 2015
Originally published January 2014

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