Thai researchers breed and release endangered bamboo sharks to the ocean
In the Gulf of Thailand, fisheries researchers use a guideline to scuba dive to the ocean floor where they release baskets full of young bamboo sharks into the wild.
The small, slow-moving, bottom-dwelling sharks with striped bodies and an extra-long tail have become endangered in recent years because of their popularity with fish collectors and exotic food diners.
Researchers have released scores of juvenile bamboo sharks in the Gulf over the past several months, hoping to remove the species from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Near Threatened” red list.
“We dive down to the ocean floor to release the sharks in a safe area. This is done so that they can live with better chances to survive than most animals that are released on the water surface. Because if we release them on the surface, there are more chances that they’ll be eaten by bigger fishes or they’ll swim away from sheltered (areas),” said Udom Krueniam, the Research official, Department of Fisheries.
Researchers last week released 40 of the brown-banded bamboo sharks, aged between 2 and 3 months, in a purpose-built artificial coral reef at a depth of 18 meters.
Udom said a successful egg hatching project last year was providing researchers with more baby sharks to release this year
The species is native to the Gulf of Thailand and is also found across Southeast Asia, Japan, and Northern Australia.
The sharks are one of the smallest marine predators, growing to a maximum length of around 1.2 meters, and are not threatening to humans. They feed mainly at night, using their small teeth to grasp or crush prey.
the director of Marine Fisheries Research and Development Center, Thanat Srikum, said that because bamboo sharks are born in the yolks of eggs, it gives them less chance to hatch and survive naturally. Their population is already small in number. Aside from that, they are being unintentionally caught by fishermen, and the environment does not accommodate their breeding or an increase in their population. So their species has become near threatened in the wild.
Researchers hope the released sharks will settle into their new home, where they will initially be sheltered by the man-made reef and hopefully reproduce.
The project has so far helped hatch, nurse, and deliver more than 200 bamboo sharks to the Gulf of Thailand.