Locating and Monitoring Breeding Zones of Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks
For millions of years, young Scalloped Hammerhead Shark pups have been raised in the mangrove swamps and reefs of coastal Galápagos. But no one had ever located an actual hammerhead nursery until 2017. That’s when the Galápagos National Park Directorate, led by biologist Eduardo Espinoza, found one along the northeastern coast of Santa Cruz Island. This major discovery of the hammerhead hideaway was a huge step in our understanding of the reproductive patterns and behavior of this highly migratory apex predator. Galápagos Conservancy has partnered with the Galápagos National Park Directorate – Quito on this important project to identify, study, and monitor breeding areas of this critically endangered species. The project will also include identification and monitoring of breeding areas of another predator in Galápagos, the vulnerable Blacktip Shark.
Why It Matters
The Galápagos Marine Reserve is one of only a handful of places on Earth where Hammerhead Sharks gather in huge schools – groups of up to several hundred Scalloped Hammerheads at a time can be seen near Darwin and Wolf Islands during certain times of the year. Galápagos is not just a short pit stop for these migratory apex predators. It’s a critical waypoint to gather with other animals. The 2017 identification of a Hammerhead nursery off Santa Cruz Island was a major discovery in our efforts to protect this critically endangered shark, and more information is needed to develop a long-term conservation plan.
By continuing to identify and map more Scalloped Hammerhead and Blacktip Shark nurseries in the nearshore waters of Galápagos, this project aims to lay the foundation for the implementation of better protections for the nursery sites that will help rebuild declining populations.
This project will help scientists develop a more complete understanding of the life cycle of Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, as well as of the importance of the Galápagos Islands to the species as a breeding and rearing headquarters.
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