Featured Species: Megamouth Shark

Our Shark Week featured species is not Jaws, it’s Megamouth (Megachasma pelagios) a large and rare species, reaching weights of 2700 pounds and lengths of 17 feet. Megamouth is the smallest of the three species of filter-feeding sharks which include the whale shark and the basking shark. First described in 1976 after being fished up on an anchor by the Navy of Honolulu, this shark is rarely seen.  Megamouth sharks have been documented only 236 times worldwide, over half in Taiwanese fisheries. They swim near the surface as well as depths of 15,000 feet!

The vast majority of these catchings can be attributed to just four fishing vessels operating off the coast of Hualien. Each year, this small group of fishing vessels close in on this global hotspot using three kilometer-long, 130 meter-high drift nets with large 30 centimeter mesh spacings to capture megamouth sharks.

With an increase in concern Taiwan made the announcement that the country would prohibit fishing Megamouth, as well as white sharks which have been actively fished until July 2020. This week Taiwan donated a Megamouth on ice to the Smithsonian Museum for study so that scientists may better understand this species.