Smooth Hammerhead Shark Nursery Found in Galápagos

Smooth Hammerhead Shark Nursery Found in Galápagos

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The Galápagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) has unveiled the existence of a nursery site for smooth hammerhead sharks nestled in a secluded bay off Isabela Island.

Smooth hammerhead shark
Smooth hammerhead shark

This remarkable finding, uncovered during a recent expedition led by Greenpeace, has piqued considerable intrigue among scientists owing to the rarity of smooth hammerhead shark sightings during their early developmental stages.

Smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna zygaena), were listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List in 2018, so their conservation is vital. They inhabit tropical and subtropical waters across the globe. Distinguished by the absence of the characteristic heart-shaped notch found in other hammerhead sharks, these elusive creatures have long fascinated researchers. 

Already depleted, not studied

Smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna zygaena) have faced numerous threats and challenges. Before scientists began studying them, they had been subjected to overfishing by commercial fishing operations around the globe, targeting them, mostly for their fins. They are particularly vulnerable to overfishing due to their slow reproductive rates and late maturity, characteristics shared by many shark species. Additionally, their habitat, which includes coastal areas and open oceans, has been impacted by human activities such as pollution, coastal development, and climate change.

With the backing of scientists and strategic partners, the GNPD will delve deeper into this newfound shark nursery, in hopes of gaining more valuable insights into its ecology and its significance for the hammerheads roaming the waters around those islands.

A local hammerhead tagged

Amidst this discovery, a pivotal milestone was achieved as a satellite tag was successfully affixed to a sub-adult female smooth hammerhead shark. Monitoring her movements in the ensuing months promises to furnish crucial data on the efficacy of the Galápagos Marine Protected Areas, where this species enjoys legal safeguards.

Importance for conservation

Dr. Jorge Carrión, the Conservation Director, underscores the pivotal role played by smooth hammerhead sharks as apex predators in preserving the overall marine ecosystem's health. The identification of this nursery area marks a monumental stride forward in the conservation efforts aimed at safeguarding this species across the archipelago.

The Galápagos Conservancy, a key patron of research initiatives concerning shark behaviour, migratory patterns, and habitats in the Galápagos, provides vital support. By furnishing essential data, these endeavours bolster the implementation of effective conservation strategies and foster close collaboration with the GNPD to ensure the protection of these awe-inspiring marine predators.

Efforts such as establishing marine protected areas, implementing fishing regulations, and raising awareness about the importance of sharks in marine ecosystems have been crucial in supporting the conservation of smooth hammerhead shark populations. But despite conservation efforts, they continue to face significant threats, and their populations remain vulnerable. Continued research, conservation measures, and international collaboration are essential to ensuring the long-term survival of this species and maintaining the health of marine ecosystems in which they play a vital role.

Galápagos Conservancy