Did you know that the porbeagle shark, once source of one of the highest priced shark meat in Europe, is now on the Red List as critically endangered (one step away from extinct) in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, endangered in the Northwest Atlantic and vulnerable worldwide?

Side view of a blue-gray shark
Porbeagle “Lamna nasus csiro-nfc” by CSIRO National Fish Collection – http://www.fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1848. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

The northwest and northeast Atlantic populations are segregated without genetic exchange between them (and the population of the southern hemisphere, too), making it difficult for the stocks to recover from the typical “boom and bust” fisheries of the past, when longline vessels depleted stock after stock since the 1930s. Porbeagle meat, called smeriglio in Italy and Kalbsfish or Seestör in Germany, is considered a delicacy in Europe, Japan and the U. S., despite its high dose of methyl mercury.

The species is also utilized for big game fishing, though often only allowed as “catch-and-release” (like in Canada since 1995) – a hobby I cannot comprehend (must be a “man thing”).

The porbeagle is, like it’s close relative, the salmon shark, able to elevate its body temperature considerably. In spite of looking like the great white, the porbeagle isn’t dangerous to humans and feeds only on small to moderate-sized fish, squids and crabs. The female reaches maturity at the age of 12–18 years and gives birth after a gestation period of about 8 months to typically 4 pups every year. The pups feed in utero on a yolk sac and later from unfertilized eggs.

Since January 2012, all EU vessels are prohibited from fishing for, retaining, boarding, transshipping or landing porbeagle sharks in all waters. “When accidentally caught, this species shall not be harmed. Specimens shall be promptly released.” I don’t think that this behavior of two recreational fishermen in May 2012 can be considered as according to these laws: the pregnant porbeagle female was certainly harmed by having to fight for her life for one and a half hours up to the point of exhaustion.

Sources: here and here

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