Demand for fresh seafood in the world, especially shark fins and oils, has led the fishing industry to set nets wider and deeper in the waters across the globe. The debate rages on reducing commercial fishing, trawling and creating more marine protected areas. However, in the ensuing decades, deep-sea fishing has resulted in netting some rare and unusual fish being caught off the coastlines of the world. The latest in these series comes from the West Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar.
According to a report by Mongabay News, a group of South African shark hunters netted a fish named coelacanth, an ancient breed once thought to have become extinct at the time of the dinosaurs. The catch was largely due to the fishermen’s use of gillnets in their shark-hunting expeditions. These new-age deep-sea nets were able to reach the area where coelacanths gather, usually about 328-492 feet below the surface of the water.
The fish species are known from fossil records dating back more than 360 million years. They even predate dinosaurs, but surprisingly resurfaced from extinction in 1938. Since then, this was the first instance of coelacanth being found alive and the recent Madagascar coast re-discovery has shocked the scientific community. The report further cited that the scientists were able to identify it as a member of the Latimeria chalumnae species and are classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The coelacanths have eight fins, large eyes and a small mouth, and a unique pattern of white spots on their scales.
With the recent discovery, marine biologists are calling for the strengthening of conservation measures to protect the fish. They believe the rediscovery comes in the wake of rising demand for shark products. According to Andrew Cooke, author of a new study in the SA Journal of Science, only a handful of captures have been reported at the local level (Madagascar) and the journal did not reflect the specific number caught there.
The journal also mentioned that the fish might face threats to survive with the increase in shark hunting in international waters.