How Did a Great White Shark End Up in Aurora?
This morning, residents of Barangay Lobbot, Dipaculao were surprised to find the corpse of a female great white shark washed up on the beach. Measuring about 17 feet, the shark was quite a sight.
It’s certainly unusual for a great white shark to stray as far as Philippine waters, as they’re usually spotted on the coasts of the United States, South America, Australia, New Zealand, the Mediterranean, West Africa, China, and Japan. This is because they prefer to inhabit colder coastal waters with temperatures of 15 to 24 degrees Celsius.
“It’s hard to be sure why a shark species that's usually in temperate waters ended up in Aurora. But great white sharks are capable of very long migrations across oceans,” says Dr. Rene Abesamis, a marine biologist at Silliman University. “I’m not really surprised that this one showed up on our Pacific seaboard. It's definitely a rare sighting, but not the first record.”
Dr. Abesamis says it’s hard to guess what killed the shark—while the photos show some scars, he’s unsure if these are related to the cause of death. So do sharks usually end up on shore when they die? “[That question] is quite interesting. Sharks, especially great white sharks, experience very low levels of natural mortality. But humans kill plenty of sharks for their fins, [though] I don't think most of the bodies of these dead sharks end up on our beaches.”
While the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has expressed concern that the female shark might have companions still swimming along the coast of Aurora, Abesamis thinks this is unlikely. “Great white sharks are solitary. They don’t school as far as I know,” he says.
The great white shark is classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List. According to the IUCN, the population of great white sharks has declined because of “sports-fishing, trophy-hunting, the curio trade, the [Asian] shark-fin trade, and even the public aquarium trade.”
It seems the cause of this particular shark’s death will remain a mystery, since it was considered a health hazard and buried within the day.