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'Very rare' shark nursery discovered off Ireland's west coast

It’s the largest shark nursery that’s ever been found in Irish waters.

A TEAM OF Marine scientists who were investigating Ireland’s deep ocean territory have found a “very rare” shark nursery 200 miles off the west coast.

While surveying the seafloor at a depth of 750 meters the Marine Institute’s remotely operated vehicle Holland 1 came across an abundance of egg cases, also known as mermaid’s purses. 

Scientists discover rare ‘shark nursery’ west of Ireland Source: Marine Institute

A large school of Blackmouth catshark and a solitary Sailfin roughshark were also filmed at the spot.

The egg cases are rarely recorded in such large amounts and the researchers believe that the females must gather at the spot to lay their eggs.

A nursery of this size has never previously been observed in Irish waters.

The area has a healthy coral reef which may act as a refuge for the juvenile shark pups once they hatch.

The scientists believe that further study of the site will answer some important scientific questions on the biology and ecology of deep water sharks in Irish waters.

Source: marineinstituteIRL/YouTube

Click here if you’re unable to view the video.

The Sailfin roughshark  is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature meaning it may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future. 

It grows up to a length of 1.2 metres and is usually observed moving slowly with deep water currents. The shark may have been feeding on the eggs but that wasn’t recorded by the team.

The Blackmouth Catshark is abundant in the north-east Atlantic, but it is also at risk of being threatened by bottom trawling.

The nursery was recorded during the SeaRover survey last July and was announced at the INFOMAR Seabed Mapping Seminar in Kinsale today.

Scientists discover rare ‘shark nursery’ west of Ireland Source: Marine Institute

“We are delighted to report the discovery of a rare shark nursery on a scale not previously documented in Irish waters,” the Chief Scientist on the SeaRover survey, David O’Sullivan, said.

This discovery shows the significance of documenting sensitive marine habitats, and will give us a better understanding of the biology of these beautiful animals and their ecosystem function in Ireland’s Biologically Sensitive Area.

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Ceimin Burke

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