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CAPE ELEUTHERA ABYSSAL SHARK EXPEDITION

In October 2011, PIP Photographer Andy Murch traveled to Cape Eleuthera to document the deep water shark project being conducted by Edd Brooks of the Cape Eleuthera Institute. Through the kind cooperation of Dr Brooks and CEI, Andy was able to obtain images of common gulper sharks which are listed as 'vulnerable' by the IUCN. Cuban dogfish and bigeye sixgill sharks were also documented during the expedition.

The common gulper shark Centrophorus granulosus is listed as 'vulnerable' by the IUCN. Due to unregulated deep sea fishing, numbers continue to decrease. The gulper shark is especially vulnerable because it has one of the lowest reproductive rates of any vertebrate. After a very slow maturity, the common gulper shark undergoes a two year gestation that produces just one offspring. The gulper shark then undertakes an extensive rest period before mating again.

Although gulper sharks are completely unable to sustain any external pressure on their numbers, they are the subject of a growing fishery targeting deepwater species for shark liver oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

The bigeye sixgill shark Hexanchus nakamurai is rarely encontered by fishermen and is therefore listed as 'data deficient' by the IUCN. However, a footnote on the IUCN listing of this species points out that the species may be under growing pressure with the expansion of deep water fisheries and there is an urgent need to collect species-specific catch data to determine accurate population trends.

The Cuban dogfish Squalus cubensis is also 'data deficient' by the IUCN notes that this species is under possible threat from a potential increase of deep sea fisheries. Further studies are warranted to establish population trends.