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May 5, 2020 1:24 pm

With Seas Empty Due to Coronavirus Crisis, Endangered Sharks Spotted Off Israel’s Mediterranean Coast

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Sandbar sharks are seen grouping off the coast of Ashdod, Israel. Photo: Aviad Sheinin.

Israel’s coast has become a haven for an endangered shark species that has disappeared from most of the rest of the Mediterranean Sea.

Researchers from the Morris Kahn Marine Research Station at the University of Haifa spotted dozens of sandbar sharks near Ashdod last week.

Another group of sharks were found last month near Hadera. They were believed to have been attracted by the warm waters created by a power plant.

The sandbar shark is a medium-sized coastal species usually found in relatively shallow waters. Once abundant, they have become rare in the Mediterranean due to overfishing.

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Marine biologist and the Top Predator Project Manager at the University of Haifa, Dr. Aviad Sheinin, said of the Hadera sharks, “Dozens of sharks have gravitated toward the warmer water near Hadera’s power plant, causing this unique spotting. This current sighting of sandbar sharks has occurred in several places around the world, but it is rare to see them in the Mediterranean.”

“It seems that while most of the Mediterranean sharks are in danger of extinction, our beaches are exceptionally friendly to them,” he added.

Of the Ashdod sighting, Sheinin said, “We were delighted to see groups of dozens of sharks, which we identified as sandbar sharks. They’re an endangered species in the Mediterranean, so it was exciting for us to see such a large group here with us.”

University researchers and students have been involved in studying the Hadera sharks for five years, including electronically tagging them and studying their movements and behavior.

Although their research has been curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic, they are now looking into whether the Ashdod sharks are members of the group seen off the Hadera coast who migrated south.

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