Home to world’s largest concentration of sharks is revealed; 55 sharks per acre

Hammerhead sharks are among the 33 species of sharks found in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
Hammerhead sharks are among the 33 species of sharks found in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Photo: Courtesy of Enric Sala/National Geographic

The worldwide population of sharks is said to have decreased as much as 90 percent because of overfishing, but researchers discovered an area that is teeming with sharks—to the tune of an incredible 55 sharks per acre.

Surveys by the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and the National Geographic Pristine Seas Initiative revealed that the world’s largest shark biomass is located around the northern Galapagos islands of Darwin and Wolf.

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“The islands of Darwin and Wolf are jewels in the crown of the Galapagos because of the sheer abundance of sharks and other top predators,” Pelayo Salinas de León, the paper’s lead author and senior marine ecologist at CDRS, said in announcing the results, which were published this week in the journal PeerJ.

The presence of these top predators indicates a healthy marine ecosystem and, according to SCUBA News, makes these islands “a global scuba diving and conservation hotspot.”

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Salinas de León told GrindTV in an email that there are 33 shark species within the Galapagos Marine Reserve with the most common around Darwin and Wolf being hammerheads, Galapagos, silky, blacktip, whitetip, tiger, and whale sharks.

“Darwin and Wolf islands are the sharkiest place in the world and they represent a window in time of how the world’s oceans once were,” Salinas de León told GrindTV. “The only reason we still find high shark numbers around these islands is because sharks have been protected from fishing by the Ecuadorian government since the late 1990s.”

Darwin’s Arch protrudes from the water southeast of Darwin Island.
Darwin’s Arch protrudes from the water southeast of Darwin Island. Photo: Courtesy of Neil Gelinas/National Geographic

Salinas de León said the biomass of 12,400 kg per hectare equates to 137 sharks per hectare or 55 per acre, based on the average shark being around six-feet long and 200 pounds.

The National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas expedition to the Galapagos Marine Reserve was in December 2015 and was led by Enric Sala.

“The shark biomass research team collected data using stereo-video surveys at seven sites in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park Directorate,” the expedition team explained.

“The quantitative surveys recorded at Darwin and Wolf are considerably larger than those reported at Costa Rica’s Cocos Island National Park and the Chagos Marine Reserve in the Indian Ocean, home to the world’s next largest shark biomasses.”

As a result of the research, Ecuador designated Darwin and Wolf a marine sanctuary in March.

“The study published today,” the scientists concluded, “adds to the growing body of literature highlighting the ecological uniqueness and the irreplaceable value of Darwin and Wolf—not only for Ecuador but for the world.”

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