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Young blue shark caught off Salina

Photo: Clive Xuereb

Photo: Clive Xuereb

A juvenile blue shark was caught by a man spearfishing for octopus off Salina early yesterday morning.

The shark was estimated to be about 1.5 metres in length

People on the shore said the diver, a 41-year-old man from Naxxar, told them that he was snorkelling when the shark, estimated to be about 1.5 metres in length, flashed past him, at which point he fired his speargun and struck the fish in the head.

The man’s claim that he had been snorkelling could not be verified yesterday. Spearfishing with aqualungs is illegal under Maltese law.

Alex ‘Sharkman’ Buttigieg, considered to be a local authority on sharks, said that as someone who was campaigning for the blue shark’s conservation he was saddened to hear of the incident.

He added that over the past 15 to 20 years, the shark’s population had declined by 85%, mainly because it was often killed accidentally by fisherman as a by-catch.

Blue sharks are not considered an aggressive species and rarely attack humans. They feed mostly on squid and octopus and their habitat extends to most of the world’s waters. It is estimated that 10 to 20 million blue sharks are killed each year as a result of fishing.

Mr Buttigieg also questioned whether the shark could have been killed so easily with a speargun. The blue shark is normally found in the open sea, and Mr Buttigieg speculated that for it to be swimming in such shallow water, it might have been either sick or lost. Alternatively, it may have been attracted by the nearby tuna farms.

The shark was passed on to the Fisheries Control Division by police as the incident is being investigated as is procedure.

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