Thirty hammerhead sharks that were captured over an eight year period on the Great Barrier Reef and exported to an aquarium in France have all died in captivity.
The scalloped hammerheads were exported to Europe’s biggest aquarium, the Nausicaa aquarium, from 2011 to 2018. Conservation group Sea Shepherd France has now launched legal action against the aquarium after the last shark died two weeks ago.
According to Nausicaa, the cause of the deaths were from a fungal infection but Sea Shepherd France has claimed some of the attacked and ate each other. The conservation organization has said the sharks were mistreated in captivity and could have played a role in their aggressive behavior.
Lamya Essemlali, the president of Sea Shepherd France, said the organization was seeking access to all documents relating to the care of the sharks in captivity. “For a threatened species every individual counts,” she said. “We want all the documents of the people who took care of them and the authorizations for the imports. “
“It’s all very blurry from Nausicaá. That is why we are asking in our lawsuit for a deep investigation of everything that happened from the moment they imported them in 2011.”
The sharks were originally captured in the Queensland Marine Aquarium Fish Fishery, an approved wildlife trade operation .The sharks were then sent to Europe via a Queensland company,
Cairns Marine, that supplies ocean life to aquariums after being caught on the GBR.
Scalloped hammerhead sharks have been considered endangered by a team of experts at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, but its Red List statuses are scientific evaluations and not legally binding leaving the species to be legally classified as conservation dependent, allowing them to be fished.
The overall health of the Great Barrier Reef has been sharply declining due to two major reasons, climate change and overfishing. Shark populations have been sharply decreasing due to nets for fishing and protecting certain areas such as a beach leading to shark populations to have declined by up to 92% in the last 50 years.
Apex sharks are vital to the planets ecosystems as they provide a balance on the planets ecosystem.
Sharks are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of every ocean. In that role, they keep populations of other fish healthy and in proper proportion for their ecosystem. Researchers estimate than more than 100 million sharks are being killed every year with a majority of deaths coming from the shark finning industry and bycatch.
The story paints a very grim pciture on an industry that has received a lot of negative publicity due to the treatment and captivity of marine animals.