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Creature Feature: Roughsharks

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In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.

Take a deep dive with this month’s creature feature – looking at the weird and wonderful Roughsharks. There are five species of Roughshark – all unmistakable due to their unusually large dorsal fins. The Roughshark family is known as the Oxynotidae.  

Roughsharks are small sharks, with two large sail-like dorsal fins which give them an unusual appearance. They also have broad, slightly flattened heads, with small thick lips. They have large to enormous spiracles close behind their eyes. 

Roughsharks are not targeted by fisheries, but being deepsea sharks, they are sometimes caught as bycatch in deepsea bottom fisheries. There is limited research into Roughsharks, due to their scattered distribution and the fact they’re deepsea sharks. Very little is known about their behaviour or biology. 

Caribbean Roughshark 

The Carribean roughshark, as the name suggests, live in the Caribbean. Its first dorsal fin leans forward. And it islight grey or brown in colour. With dark bands and blotches. The pectoral and pelvic fins are noticeably lighter in colour pattern.   

It isn’t targeted by fisheries, but can be caught as bycatch by deepsea fisheries. The species isn’t usually consumed by humans. But is sometimes used as bait. It can be made fit for consumption for meat or oil, by smoking and salting.

Roughsharks have unusual teeth. Their top jawhave spear-like upper teeth, forming a triangular pad. The bottom teeth are very compressed, with a saw-like cutting edge, of around 9-18 rows. The Carribean Roughshark’s feeding behaviours have not been observed. But it’s expected that they feed on bottom invertebrates and small fishes. Like the other Roughsharks, very little is known about their behaviour or ecology.

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Oxynotus caribbaeus 

FAMILY: Oxynotidae 

MAXIMUM SIZE: 150cm 

DIET:   Unknown – likely small fishes and inverterbrate 

DISTRIBUTION:   West-Central Atlantic: Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean coast of Central America & Venezuela.  

HABITAT:  218m – 579m. Over muddy and rocky outcrops and bottoms.  

CONSERVATION STATUS: 

Banner Image – Sailfin Roughshark © Citron / CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Image – Caribbean Roughshark ©Nakedape13 via Wikimedia Commons


For more amazing facts about sharks and what you can do to help the Shark Trust protect them visit the Shark Trust website by clicking here.

The Shark Trust is the leading UK-based shark conservation charity. The team works globally to safeguard the future of sharks, and their close cousins, the skates and rays. Engaging with a global network of scientists, policymakers, conservation professionals, businesses and supporters, to further shark conservation. Established in 1997 to provide a voice for UK sharks, the Shark Trust has an ever-growing number of passionate supporters. And together we're creating positive change for sharks around the world. Want to join us and help protect sharks around the world? Click here! www.sharktrust.org

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Hunting Lionfish Safely and Responsibly in Curaçao

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lionfish

Curaçao, a picturesque island in the southern Caribbean, is not only renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture but also for its commitment to preserving its marine ecosystems. One of the key threats to these delicate ecosystems is the invasive lionfish. To combat this menace, responsible hunting practices are crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao, including the use of pole spears (the only legal method in Curaçao). We will provide you with the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper. We will also address what to do if you are stung by a lionfish and emphasize the importance of consulting with local experts before embarking on your lionfish hunting adventure.

Why Safe and Responsible Lionfish Hunting is Important

Lionfish (Pterois spp.) are native to the Indo-Pacific region but have become invasive predators in the Caribbean, including the waters surrounding Curaçao. Their voracious appetite for native fish species and rapid reproduction rates poses a severe threat to the delicate balance of marine ecosystems in the region. The introduction of lionfish has led to a decline in native fish populations and the degradation of coral reefs.

To counteract the lionfish invasion, responsible hunting practices are essential. Hunting lionfish can help control their population and protect the native marine life of Curaçao’s waters. However, it is imperative to follow safe and responsible hunting techniques to minimize the impact on the environment and ensure the safety of both divers and the marine ecosystem.

Understanding the Pole Spear

In Curaçao, the only legal method for hunting lionfish is using a pole spear. It’s important to note that a pole spear is distinct from other spearfishing equipment, such as a Hawaiian sling or a spear gun with a trigger mechanism. The use of Hawaiian slings or spear guns with triggers is illegal in Curaçao for lionfish hunting due to safety and conservation concerns.

lionfish

A pole spear consists of a long, slender pole with a pointed tip, often made of stainless steel or fiberglass, designed for precision and accuracy. Unlike a trigger-based spear gun, a pole spear requires the diver to manually draw back on a rubber band then release towards the target, providing a more controlled and selective approach to hunting.

How to Hunt Lionfish Using a Pole Spear Responsibly

When using a pole spear to hunt lionfish, it’s crucial to do so responsibly to ensure the safety of both the diver and the marine environment. Here are some essential guidelines on how to hunt lionfish using a pole spear responsibly:

  1. Safety First: Always prioritize safety when diving and hunting. Ensure you have the necessary training and experience for hunting lionfish. Consider the Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience offered by Ocean Encounters. This opportunity allows participants to learn under the expert guidance of local scuba diving professionals.
  2. Check Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions related to lionfish hunting in Curaçao. Respect no-take zones and marine protected areas.
  3. Target Only Lionfish: Use your pole spear exclusively for lionfish hunting. Do not attempt to spear any other species, as this can harm the fragile ecosystem.
  4. Aim for Precision: Approach your target lionfish carefully and aim for a precise shot to minimize the risk of injuring other marine life or damaging the coral reef.
  5. Use a Zookeeper: A Zookeeper is a specialized container designed to safely store and transport lionfish after capture. It prevents the lionfish’s venomous spines from causing harm and keeps them secure during the dive.
  6. Respect Lionfish Anatomy: Target the head of the lionfish and stay away from its venomous spines. Aim for a clean and humane kill to minimize suffering.
  7. Avoid Overhunting: Do not overhunt lionfish in a single dive. Limit the number of lionfish you catch to what you can safely handle and process.
  8. Practice Good Buoyancy: Maintain excellent buoyancy control to avoid inadvertently damaging the reef or stirring up sediment, which can harm marine life.
  9. Dispose Responsibly: Once you’ve caught lionfish, carefully place them in your Zookeeper. Do not release them back into the water, as they are invasive and harmful to the ecosystem.
  10. Report Your Catch: If applicable, report your lionfish catch to local authorities or organizations involved in lionfish management to contribute to data collection efforts.

In the Unlikely Event of a Lionfish Sting

While lionfish stings are rare, it’s essential to know how to respond if you or someone you are diving with is stung. Lionfish have venomous spines that can cause pain, swelling, and even more severe reactions in some cases. Here’s how to respond to a lionfish sting:

  1. Signal for Help: Notify your diving buddy or group immediately if you are stung.
  2. Remove Spines: If the spines are still embedded in the skin, carefully remove them with tweezers or a clean, sterile tool. Be cautious not to break the spines, as this can release more venom.
  3. Clean the Wound: Rinse the affected area with warm water to help alleviate pain and reduce the risk of infection.
  4. Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with pain and swelling. However, if you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.
  5. Seek Medical Help: If the pain and swelling worsen or if you have an allergic reaction to the venom, seek medical assistance immediately.

Consult Local Lionfish Experts

Before embarking on a lionfish hunting adventure in Curaçao, it’s crucial to consult with local and responsible dive shops or organizations dedicated to lionfish management, such as Lionfish Caribbean.

lionfish

These experts can provide valuable insights, tips, and up-to-date information on how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly, hunting locations, safety measures, and environmental conservation efforts.

Start Planning your Next Caribbean Adventure

Knowing how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao is not just an exciting underwater activity but also a crucial step in protecting the island’s marine ecosystems. By using a pole spear and adhering to the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper, you can contribute to the control of the invasive lionfish population while preserving the delicate balance of Curaçao’s underwater world.

Remember that safety should always be your top priority when diving and hunting lionfish. In the unlikely event of a lionfish sting, knowing how to respond can make all the difference. By consulting with local experts and following ethical and legal guidelines, you can enjoy a rewarding and responsible lionfish hunting experience while safeguarding the beauty of Curaçao’s marine environment for generations to come. Please always dive safely and responsibly, and together, we can make a positive impact on Curaçao’s underwater world while learning how to hunt lionfish effectively.

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The life of a Great White Shark

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Great White Shark

The great white shark, known scientifically as Carcharodon carcharias, embodies the apex predator of the ocean. This majestic creature’s life is a testament to survival, adaptability, and the intricate balance of the marine ecosystem.

Born in the waters off coastal regions, a great white shark begins its life as a pup within the safety of nurseries, typically found in warm, shallow waters. The pups, measuring around 5 feet in length at birth, are immediately equipped with an innate instinct for survival.

Great White Shark

As they grow, great whites embark on a journey, venturing into deeper and cooler waters, often covering vast distances across the ocean. These apex predators are perfectly adapted hunters, relying on their impressive senses to detect prey. Their acute sense of smell, aided by specialized sensory organs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, helps detect the faintest traces of blood in the water from several miles away.

Feeding primarily on seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals, great whites are known for their powerful jaws lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Their hunting techniques often involve stealth, utilizing their streamlined bodies to approach prey from below and striking with incredible speed and force.

Great White Shark

Despite their fearsome reputation, great whites play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As top predators, they help regulate the population of prey species, preventing overpopulation that could disrupt the balance of the food chain.

Reproduction among great white sharks is a slow and careful process. Females reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 years of age, while males mature earlier, around 9 to 10 years old. Mating occurs through complex courtship rituals, with females giving birth to a small number of live pups after a gestation period of about 12 to 18 months.

Great White Shark

However, the life of a great white shark is not without challenges. Human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, pose significant threats to their population. Additionally, despite their formidable presence, great whites are vulnerable and face dangers from entanglement in fishing gear and accidental bycatch.

Despite these challenges, great white sharks continue to inspire awe and fascination among scientists and nature enthusiasts. Their presence in the ocean serves as a reminder of the delicate balance and interconnectedness of marine life, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures for future generations to admire and study.

Want to learn more about sharks? Visit The Shark Trust website: www.sharktrust.org

Photos: avalon.red

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