Rare species of shark reported in Costa Rica

August 12, 2008 – San José, Costa Rica

Artisanal fishermen and PRETOMA researchers confirmed the existence of a Mexican hornshark (Heterodontus mexicanus) off Costa Rica’s pacific coast. While scientific literature documents the occurrence of this species in coastal waters from Mexico to Central America, this is the first time it has been positively identified in Costa Rican waters. The horn shark was caught by fisherman Luis Angel Rojas off  Isla Herradura, close to Jacó, in the central pacific on August 4 (Horn shark picture).

This species of shark lives in deep coastal waters with rocky sea beds (20 to 50 meters or more), where they principally feed on small mollusks and crustaceans. One of its most outstanding characteristics is the presence of a spine on each of its dorsal fins. Another characteristic of this species is that it lays eggs on the ocean floor (Horn shark egg), unlike most other types of sharks that bear live young similar to the way mammals do. The eggs require a year to hatch. Its small size and peculiar appearance, apart from its serrated teeth and tough skin, make this a unique species compared with other sharks.

While this is the first official report of this shark in Costa Rica, Tárcoles fishermen have long known of its existence. “This species of shark is only rarely caught when fishing for groupers and snappers using a botton set longline in the fishing area known as Isla Herradura, and it’s usually freed alive because it has no commercial value”, said Rojas. “I was interested in keeping the specimen because PRETOMA biologists had already told me that no official records existed of this species’ presence in Costa Rica, and I also like to help improve the knowledge of sharks in our waters”, added Rojas proudly.

According to Andrés López, PRETOMA’s Fisheries Projects Coordinator, the confirmed presence in Costa Rican waters of the Mexican hornshark is an example of how much we still need to learn about sharks and marine animals in general. “Obtaining this type of information is only made possible with the help and collaboration of the fishing sector”, said López.

Between 2006 and 2007, the Tárcoles Fishermen’s Cooperative (Coopetárcoles) and PRETOMA developed conjunctive fishing research to better define marine management and conservation policies, and identified certain areas, for example the Tácoles River mouth and the fishing grounds known as Herradura, as shark reproduction sites that should be protected. Unfortunately, the uncontrolled operation of shrimp trawlers in the area has been identified as the biggest threat to attaining a sustainable fishery, due to their unselective and destructive nature.

See more pictures: Hornshark, Hornshark egg, Hornshark teeth, Hornshark dorsal fin spine.

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    Rare species of shark reported in Costa Rica August 12, 2008 – San José, Costa Rica Artisanal fishermen and PRETOMA researchers confirmed the existence of a Mexican hornshark (Heterodontus mexicanus) off Costa Rica’s pacific coast. While scientific literature documents the occurrence of this species in coastal waters from Mexico to...