For the first time in reported history, a smooth hammered shark was spotted by a crew in waters off the coast of Ireland according to The Times.
The crew, who saw the marine animal, was aboard an Irish government research vessel in the Celtic Sea, southwest of Ireland.
Paul Connolly, director of fisheries at the Marine Institute In Galway told the times, “This is an exciting encounter, especially since a rare deep-water shark nursery, 200 miles west of Ireland, was discovered by Irish scientists last year.”
Smooth hammerheads grow to 13 feet in length and are typically found in tropical and temerperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans but typically prefer tropic waters.
This is not the first time a smooth hammerhead has traveled further north as in 2004, one had washed ashore in Portreath, Britain. This was the furthest north the species had been recorded to travel to prior to the Irish sighting.
Experts believe the latest sighting the Celtic Sea is a sign of rising ocean temperatures and sighting are only expected to increase as waters continue warm due to climate change.
“It could be a very lost hammerhead shark, but more likely it is because our oceans are getting warmer,” Simon Boxall from the National Oceanography Center, UK, told The Times. “There is no reason why more shark species like hammerheads and great whites can’t exist in our waters.”
The ocean absorbs vast quantities of heat as a result of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly from fossil fuel consumption. The Fifth Assessment Report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013 revealed that the ocean had absorbed more than 93% of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions since the 1970s. This is causing ocean temperatures to rise.
Even worse, new analysis found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average compared to a United Nations panel estimated five years ago.
While climbing ocean temperatures may open up new feeding grounds for many species of marine life, it is mostly bad news. In the tropics, coral reef systems have seen drastic bleaching events that have wiped out a large percentages of reefs. These reefs are comparable to the tropical rainforests on land as they are the most dense and diverse source of life on the planet. Without these systems, billions of marine animals will die as they will not have a home due to reef loss.