Rare goblin shark donated to science

5th March 2013

When Trevor Hunt (“Bluey”) the Skipper of the board trawler Lady Miriam hauled the trawl while fishing east of Esso’s Flounder platform in 530m’s of water he couldn’t believe his eyes. Even though he has been at sea for 28 years he had never seen or heard of a shark that looked like this. The shark measured eleven and a half feet long and although not weighed was estimated to weigh 230kg’s. The shark was caught on a hard muddy bottom next to a canyon while fishing for ling. The species scientific name is Mitsukurina owstoni . This family of sharks appeared in the fossil record 140 million years ago but M.owstoni is the only remaining species, all others went extinct millions of years ago. This shark is the 13th ever caught in Australia. Even though collectors might pay thousands of dollars for the shark’s distinctive set of jaws (see inset top left corner), Bluey elected to donate the shark’s head to the Melbourne Museum. Dianne Bray from Museum Victoria said the head will become part of the Museum’s research collection housed at the Melbourne Museum in Carlton Gardens. The Ichthyology research collection contains more than 500,000 fish specimens, some of which are the actual type specimens on which new species descriptions have been based. Research collections, like those at Museum Victoria, are like biological libraries, and document our biodiversity, and provide us with information on the distribution, ecology, characteristics and genetics of each species. The capture of this Goblin Shark will increase knowledge of this relatively rare, deep-water species. In 2003, more than a hundred Goblin Sharks were caught off the northwest coast of Taiwan, an area in which they have previously not been found. Reportedly, the sharks were caught a short time after an earthquake occurred in the area. One of these sharks was transferred to an aquarium and the first ever video footage of a small live specimen was recorded. M. owstoni’s conservation status is classified by the IUCN’s Shark Red List Authority as a species of “Least Concern”.