‘Extinct’ shark species rediscovered at fish market

Smoothtooth blacktip shark

From Scientific American:

Shark Species Thought to Be Extinct Found in Fish Market [Slide Show]

After more than a century, the smoothtooth blacktip shark has been rediscovered

By David Shiffman

After his 1902 trip to Yemen, scholar and naturalist Wilhelm Hein returned with a variety of plants and animals, which he donated to the Vienna Museum. One of these specimens, a shark, sat unnoticed for more than 80 years. In 1985 it was identified as the first (and only known) specimen of Carcharhinus leiodon, the smoothtooth blacktip shark. Because no others had ever been found by scientists, Alec Moore, regional vice chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group’s Indian Ocean group, says that “some suspected it might be extinct or not a valid species.”

In 2008, during a Shark Conservation Society research expedition to Kuwait’s sharq fish market (the name is a coincidence, it means east in Arabic), Moore says that “amongst the many species of whaler shark was one which looked very similar, but different, to a couple of other species.” Later analysis revealed that although this specimen was more than 3,000 kilometers from where Hein caught his, this was a smoothtooth blacktip, the first new individual seen by scientists in over a century.

>>View a slide show of shark species at fish markets

These sharks are currently considered “Vulnerable” to extinction by on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, an assessment that was made before their rediscovery by Dr. Moore and his team. More recent studies in fish markets throughout the region have located 47 additional smoothtooth blacktip sharks, greatly increasing what scientists know about this species with and reported in a 2013 paper in Marine & Freshwater Research. The new study included some of the first data on how large smoothtooth blacktips can grow, how many pups they can bear and their habitat usage as well as other information needed for an effective conservation and management plan in the future.

Shopping for species
Fish market surveys of the kind that resulted in the rediscovery of the smoothtooth blacktip are an increasingly common research tool that offers many advantages over traditional scientific field sampling. Julia Spaet, a researcher at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, says that “the resources dedicated by a fleet of fishermen will always outmatch any scientific efforts to assess abundances. In other words, the fishing industry is more efficient at finding sharks where there are not much left.”

These surveys are hard work. Researchers have to arrive before dawn, before the boats come in to land their catches. The species of interest have to be identified, counted, measured and sampled before they are sold to customers. When further study is required, researchers need to purchase the fishes themselves. This whole process can be, for lack of a technical term, disgusting. Moore says he “once made the mistake of climbing into a skip [waste bin] to sample a load of rays that had been festering in the sun; the response of my gastrointestinal tract to this was, as an understatement, memorably unfavorable.”

Surveys also offer challenges not faced by scientists who do field surveys, such as gaining fishermen’s trust. Moore says that “although sometimes bemused by what we are doing, they are generally very tolerant of weird foreigners poking around, and we’ve met some incredibly generous, funny and helpful people—we’ve even been given breakfast.”

Researchers have made many discoveries relevant to the conservation of threatened shark and ray species by studying the catches in fish markets in Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Rima Jabado, a PhD student at United Arab Emirates University, was contacted by a fisherman who found an unusual looking shark, which resulted in the first scientific record of a sand tiger shark in United Arab Emirates waters. Jabado also found species with local legal protections for sale in markets, such as whale sharks and green sawfish, which she says shows “some species should be protected and managed locally and that there is a clear need for better enforcement of some of the current legislation.” Spaet agrees, noting that “in Saudi Arabia shark fishing is prohibited by law, yet we still find large numbers of sharks landed at the markets every day.”

In the meantime Moore has some advice for any shark-o-philes going on vacation: “Always go to the fish market with a camera, especially in tropical countries where there is little data—there is always the chance that you could find something new. Even if you don’t, fish markets in the early morning are amazing—lively places with real character and great food.”

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Kuwaiti, Saudi persecution for tweeting

This video says about itself:

Amid chants of ‘peace’ and ‘peaceful’ pro-democracy demonstrations in Kuwait, Friday, March 11, 2011. Stateless nomadic Kuwaitis, born and raised in Kuwait, are protesting for the right to citizenship after Friday Jummah (congregation) prayers let out of the mosques, in a ‘day of rage’ protests across the Gulf, in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

From Associated Press:

Kuwait upholds sentence for Twitter ‘insults’

Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 | 12:15 a.m.

A rights activist in Kuwait says an appeals court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence against a social media commentator for posts considered offensive to Islam and the rulers of fellow Gulf states Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Monday’s ruling highlights the escalating crackdowns in the Gulf on perceived online dissent and the deepening cooperation among Gulf nations, fearing political challenges inspired by the Arab Spring.

Saudi Arabia led a Gulf military force in 2011 that helped Bahrain‘s Sunni monarchy battle a Shiite-led uprising seeking a greater political voice.

Activist Nawaf al-Handel says the appeals court refused to lower the June 2012 sentence against Hamad al-Naqi.

Al-Naqi, a Shiite, claims his Twitter account was hacked.

Twitter Prisons for Tweeting in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia: here.

Saudi Arabia May Have Freed ‘Blasphemous’ Journalist But The Press Remains Chained: here.

Kuwait dictatorship’s LGBTQ persecution

This video is called Kuwaiti Stateless (Bedoon) are beaten, arrested.

Kuwaiti Police Humiliate Arrested Migrants: here.

Kuwait upholds 10-year prison sentence for Twitter ‘insults’: here.

As if oppressing human rights activists, workers, women, doctors, athletes, photographers, poets, etc. etc. in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are not already enough …

From Gulf News:

Homosexuals ‘to be barred from entering Kuwait

Medical screening tests to be used to reinforce decision

By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Published: 14:55 October 7, 2013

Manama: The routine clinical screening of expatriates coming into the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) might be also used to “detect” homosexuals, a senior Kuwaiti official has said.

A central committee tasked with the status of expatriates will look into the proposal when it convenes on November 11, Yousuf Mindkar, the director of public health at the Kuwaiti health ministry, has said.

“Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the GCC countries,” he said. “However, we will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states,” he said, quoted by local daily Al Rai on Monday.

Homosexual acts are banned in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the GCC member countries.

The top-level bureaucrats of the Kuwaiti absolute monarchy seem to be ignorant about the World Health Organisation having stopped its classification of being gay as a “disease” already 23 years ago.

Instead of on this pseudo-medical witch-hunt, Kuwaiti health authorities should rather spend taxpayers’ money on stopping diseases caused by bad labour conditions for workers in Kuwait.

USA: Catholics push back against the firing of gay teachers at Catholic schools: here.

Christian students condemn gay classmates for ‘unpatriotic’ rainbow flag at US university: here.

Kuwait birds, bat and dragonflies

By in Kuwait, with many more photos here:

Rarities and Early Migrants at Jahra Pools Reserve, Kuwait

July 13 2013

Jahra Pools Reserve (JPR) is a small fenced wetland reserve just off the coastline to the north of Kuwait City. Previously the pools were formed from a sewage outfall, but more recently a water network has been provided and this has allowed the pools to remain filled since the end of 2012.

As a result, JPR is one of the better locations to now visit all year round as there are always birds to be seen. More importantly the stable water supply has allowed many species to breed in late Spring including; Ferruginous Duck (1st for Kuwait and a Near Threatened species), Mallard (I know that is not generally something to get excited about), Eurasian Coot, Common Moorhen, , , White-tailed Lapwing and probably .

Here is a Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) with it’s grown youngster.

Little Grebe adult and juvenile

Little Grebe adult and juvenile

And a female Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) possibly away from it’s nest.

Female Little Ringed Plover

Female Little Ringed Plover

As temperatures increase unbearingly, summer and the month of July is generally not the most productive time to look for birds. But birders will know that you only find birds if you make the time to go and look for them. This July we were fortunate to have two rarities turn up at JPR. The first was the 4th record of Masked Wagtail (Motacilla alba personata) for Kuwait, a really striking form of White Wagtail that is still considered a sub-species of White Wagtail.

Following hot on the heals of the Masked Wagtail, was another Kuwait rarity; two 1st year Black-winged Kites (Elanus caeruleus) that have now stayed at JPR for almost a week – whereas the Wagtail is long gone.

August is normally the start of the Autumn migration, but some species start off earlier and already in July we have had a smattering of early arrivals – mostly in the form of waders like Greenshank, Common and Spotted Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpipers and this Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), also Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), and the impressive Near Threatened Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa). Sand Martins (Riparia riparia) and Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) numbers are slowly starting to increase.

A few migratory birds of colour have also start appearing and we welcome hearing the Blue-cheeked Bee Eaters (Merops persicus) calling overhead as they announce their arrival.

Black-headed Wagtails (Motacilla flava feldegg) is the first Yellow Wagtail sub-species to arrive, and surprisingly a heavily moulting Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) was also seen.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is a winter visitor, so a summer occurrence is considered pretty scarce.

On my last visit, I was surprised to find a small bat flying around in daylight, but it soon found a place to roost in the reedbeds, although it was surprisingly hard to find after it had landed. It is a Kuhl’s Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhlii).

Finally, when birding gets a little slow, I turn my attention to Dragonflies, although I don’t have any reference books to identify them – they are still great photographic subjects, even with a big piece of glass on the front of the camera.

As we move to the end of July we look forward to another exciting time in Kuwait birding – Autumn migration and the possibility of discovering another new species for Kuwait!