Endangered Sharks meet a cruel death

30 March, 2022

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On the bottom of Lysekil Harbour on Sweden’s west coast lie around 60 dead and dying Spiny Dogfish and Rays. These animals are on the IUCN’s red list of endangered species.

Marine biology student Valdemar Klemming was walking along the harbour wall at Lysekil on Sweden’s west coast when he and fellow students spotted unusual activity on the harbour floor. On closer examination they identified a group of Spiny Dogfish lying belly up and severely injured. After diving down and confirming what they had found they were in contact with underwater photographer Tobias Dahlin.

Tobias close up video images show a pile of dead and dying sharks and rays lying belly up with some still struggling to breath. 

– This is so tragic says Valdemar Klemming. That it can be like this in Sweden, that a protected fish species can be treated in this way. Bottom trawling threatens sharks, they are tortured to death.

Fellow student, Emily Okcu Van Dyke tells us that there is a growing student movement in Lysekil who are passionate about the marine environment and want to stop bottom trawling.

Deep Sea Reporter made contact with Martin Rydgren from Sweden’s agency for marine and water management who replied:

– Protected species which are caught should be released back into the sea immediately not dumped. 

For sport fishermen  it is relatively easy to return a protected fish that is hooked by mistake but it is far more challenging to release a fish that is crushed in the middle of a giant trawl net. Nonetheless it is the responsibility of the fisherman to do everything possible to save the fish.

If an endangered animal was caught, injured and then dumped on land it would be a breach of  animal anti cruelty laws but wild fish are not covered by the Swedish law in this way. Or could it be that the fish is covered by the law once it has been caught? Deep Sea Reporter is investigating this subject. We will be pursuing this further with the Swedish authorities.

Marine biologist and author David C. Bernvi, tweets as follows:

Because sharks and rays have a cartilaginous skeleton and lack ribs they get crushed in a trawl net. Their internal organs are destroyed. They are then thrown back into the sea because they are a protected species and it is forbidden to land them. We need to have protected areas where trawling is forbidden if we are to protect sharks and rays.

Text: Simon Stanford
Underwater Photography: Tobias Dahlin

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