This week’s featured species is a cautionary tale when elasmobranch fisheries go unregulated. The Pondicherry shark (Carcharhinus hemiodon) is a medium bodied shark species in the Carcharhinidae family that used to be found commonly in the coastal waters of in the Indo-Pacific (Parker, 2008). It has a relatively long snout compared to other species in the family, and it has dark splotches on the under sides of its pectoral fins, tail fins, and doral. The upper lobe of the caudal fin is strong and pronounced and a distinct notch in the upper lobe.
As I mentioned, the pondicherry shark used to be very common in the coastal waters throughout the Indo-Pacific. However these waters have been subject to massive fishing pressures over the last 50 years. Today the pondicherry shark is known from the 20 or so specimens that are housed in museums (Parker, 2008). Because of this, very little is know about their life histories or biology.
In September of this year, field scientists at the East Godavari River Estuarine Ecosystem (EGREE) Foundation announced they had positively identified a pondicherry shark landed in Kumbhabhishekam. This followed two other unconfirmed landings in the region in 2007 and 2016 (Murali Sankar, 2018). However it was later determined that the shark was misidentified for a graceful shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchoides) (D. Ebert, personal communication, December 2018). The last confirmed sighting of this shark has not occurred since 1979 (Compagno, White, & Fowler, 2003). This striking decline of a once common species is a startling reminder of what we are capable of doing to our sharks is such a short period of time when fishing is not regulated. As we move into a new year, make a new resolution to live more sustainably. It is estimated that nearly 40% of the global seafood catch is bycatch, which includes sharks, rays, turtles, dolphins, and other bony fishes that are never consumed (Keledjian, et al., 2014). It’s time we made better choices in our daily lives for the sake of our oceans, for the sake of our sharks. Become an educated consumer by researching the products you purchase. Avoid products harvested using unsustainable methods. Moneterey Bay Aquarium has developed the SeaFood Watch App that is available for download on Android and Apple that can help you become a more educated consumer.
Authority: Müller & Henle,1839
Family: Carcharhinidae; 59+ species
Length: Maximum of 6 feet (1.8 m)
Weight: Maximum weight unknown
Habitat: Tropical and temperate coastal waters; river mouths and brackish waters
Depth: Shallow waters, maximum depth unknown
Litter Range: Unknown
Home Range: Previously found throughout the Indo-Pacific; however incredibly rare since the late 1970’s; only one confirmed sighting in 2018
Diet: Bony fishes and invertebrates
IUCN Status: Critically Endangered; possibly Extinct
(Compagno, White, & Fowler, 2003; Parker, 2008; Skomal, 2016)
Thanks so much for checking out the Pondicherry Shark! If you missed last week’s featured species, don’t miss the beautiful Pyjama Shark. If there is a species of shark you’d love to know more about, leave me a comment or send me a message! I would love to do a feature on your favorite species.
The new Ocean For Sharks Shop is open! There’s handmade ocean inspired plush animals, canvas paintings, and of course my children’s book, Winifred the Wondrous Whale Shark, available in print and PDF. Be sure to stop by. Remember proceeds benefit shark research and conservation with a donation to Project AWARE!
Conservation legislation needs public support in order to become law and help protect the environment and wildlife. Tell your representatives that you care about environmental and wildlife conservation. It only takes a moment to make a change that will last a lifetime. Until next time finatics!
Featured Image Source
Ferrara, C. (Photographer). (2018). Paratype specimen of the Pondicherry shark (Carcharias hemiodon) [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://blog.nature.org/
Compagno, L. J. (1984). Sharks of the world: an annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date (No. QL 638.9. C65).
Compagno, L.J.V., White, W. & Fowler, S. (SSG Australia & Oceania Regional Workshop, March 2003). (2003). Carcharhinus hemiodon. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved from https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/39369/10185838
Keledjian, A., Brogan, G., Lowell, B., Warrenchuk, J., Enticknap, B., Shester, G., … Cano-Stocco, D. (2014). Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems in U.S. Fisheries. Retrieved from https://oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/Bycatch_Report_FINAL.pdf
Murali Sankar, K. N. (2018). ‘Pondicherry shark’ spotted near Kakinada – The Hindu. Retrieved December 20, 2018, from https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/pondicherry-shark-spotted-near-kakinada/article24910627.ece
Parker, S. (2008). The encyclopedia of sharks (2nd ed.). Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books Ltd.
Skomal, G. (2016). The Shark Handbook: The Essential Guide for Understanding the Sharks of the World. (2nd ed.). Kennebunkport, ME: Cider Mill Press.