'Extinct' Shark Found in Kuwaiti Fish Market

Tuesday, 14 Jan 2014 12:48 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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A species of shark long thought to be extinct has been found in a Kuwaiti fish market.

The smoothtooth blacktip shark, or Carcharhinus leiodon, was the first specimen to be discovered in more than 100 years, according to Scientific American.

The fish was uncovered in 2008 by a Shark Conservation Society expedition to the Sharg (meaning east in Arabic) market. Since then, researchers have gone on to find another 47 specimens of the shark in various fish markets throughout the region.

In a recent report, Marine & Freshwater Research said that the abundance of specimens revealed how large the smoothtooth blacktip shark can grow as well as how many pups they can have. The specimens also revealed what type of habitats they frequent, which will help conservationists stop them from actually becoming extinct.

Before the recent discoveries, the last time the same species had been seen was in 1902 when naturalist Wilhelm Hein donated one to the Vienna Museum. But the find was then forgotten until 1985 when the fish was finally identified.

Alec Moore, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Shark Specialist Group’s Indian Ocean group, said that because it was an apparent one-off discovery "some suspected it might be extinct or not a valid species."

The smoothtooth blacktip shark is now on an IUCN "threatened species" list, meaning it is "vulnerable" to extinction and one that the group endeavors to save.

Fish markets are a common source of research for scientists conducting research on finding various species of fish.

Julia Spaet, a researcher at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, says, "The resources dedicated by a fleet of fishermen will always outmatch any scientific efforts to assess abundances. In other words, the fishing industry is more efficient at finding sharks where there are not much left."

According to Scientific American, scientists have often found vital data relating to endangered species of sharks and ray while researching markets in Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

And Moore even asks the public for help when they visit foreign fish markets. "Always go to the fish market with a camera, especially in tropical countries where there is little data—there is always the chance that you could find something new," he said.

"Even if you don't, fish markets in the early morning are amazing—lively places with real character and great food."

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