Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Megamouth Shark

It was nearly 36 years ago that the first recorded specimen of a very strange Shark was discovered. This accidental discovery was  not done by a fishing vessel but by a U.S. Navy Ship!

On the 15th of November 1976, a U.S. Navy Ship had orders to search and recover lost "Dummy" Torpedoes. They were approx. 25 miles off the coast Oahu, Hawaii where their chute like drift anchor was being towed. Suddenly something huge caused it to drag down. On reeling it up back to the ship, the crew were amazed to find a huge fish, entangled in a deep-water net.

With a mouth measuring 1 metre wide at the tip of a 4.5 metres long brownish coloured flabby body, it was soon realised that nobody had ever seen this species before!! It took about 7 years before this species was identified and named as Megachasma pelagios, or as it is better known, the Megamouth Shark. That specimen can still be seen on display at the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

Eight years had to pass before another specimen was captured and this happened in California. Since then, a total 53 Megamouths have been recorded. The majority of these sharks ended up either consumed or dumped. About 15 specimens are on display in various museums around the World. Only 6 Megamouths were released alive. 2 of the records are reports of sharks that were sighted. Most of the captures, 14, have occurred in Japan.

Megamouth locations

Forming part of the Order of Lamniformes, The Megamouth is a filter feeder like the Basking  and Whale Sharks. This species is wide-ranging with captures and sightings reported from the Indian, the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. Quite a few of the recorded sizes exceed 5m in length with the largest being 5.7m (approx.18 feet). A Megamouth sighted off Dana Point, California, was estimated to be between 6.1m to 7.6m., but this cannot be taken as an exact measure. The smallest one was found washed ashore on a beach in Indonesia and it was a 1.77m juvenile male.

Dana point was also the location of Megamouth # 6, which was tagged and released. This shark was tracked for two days and whilst during the day it dove down to a depth of 150m, at dusk it would rise to 15m.
Megamouth # 6 tagged and released.
Along with Dr. Henry F. Mollet, I have been keeping records of every Megamouth captured or sighted. We know that there could be others that do not get reported. Details and photos of all 53 specimens can be found on my website at Sharkman's World Organization.

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