Release of the first 16 nursehounds born in a controlled artificial environment, part of the ‘Petits taurons’ project

Exciting news! “Petits taurons – Stellaris Action” has achieved a project milestone following the birth of 156 nursehound sharks in a controlled artificial environment – 70 at  Palma Aquarium and  86 at the Cabrera Interpretation Centre.

The nursehound, also known as the large-spotted dogfish, greater spotted dogfish or bull huss, is a species of catshark that inhabits the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and is commonly found in the waters around the Balearic Islands, at depths of between 40 and 80 metres. However, nursehound stocks have been severely depleted due to overfishing and other impacts attributable to humans.

The aim of this project, which was set up in 2021, is to obtain more information about this species and to increase stocks in the Balearic Sea, as it has been classified as endangered in the Balearic Islands Red Book of Fish.

Thanks to this breeding project, 16 nursehound offspring born in a controlled artificial environment have now been released.

The majority of adults included in the initial stages of the project were recovered from bottom trawling fishing and transferred to the Palma Aquarium Foundation facilities, where the breeding programme began. The eggs laid by the females were transferred to special tanks for incubation at a specific temperature until hatching. The hatchlings measure some 15 cm at birth and were reared until they measured between 45 and 50 cm in length and weighed between 600 and 800 g and could be fitted with a radio transmitter for long-term tracking. This monitoring is carried out by  Balearic Tracking Network of the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA).

This initiative is the result of the alliance between the Palma Aquarium Foundation, the Balearic Island Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food, the Regional Ministry of the Environment and Territory, the  Marilles Foundation, Save The Med, Shark Med, Petites Illes del Mediterrani, the Mallorca Preservation Foundation, Cabrera National Park, with the collaboration of Baleària and the Formentera and Cala Ratjada fishing guilds.

In short, the  “Petits taurons” project is a major step in the right direction towards the goal of recovering the nursehound population, a species that we still have a lot to learn about. Releasing the hatchlings bred in a controlled artificial environment and tracking their evolution is essential in order to understand how these specimens adapt to their natural habitat and to be able to assess the project’s effectiveness.

Here at the Palma Aquarium we’re thrilled at the project’s success and will continue to work for the conservation of marine biodiversity. We hope that this initiative can be repeated with other endangered species!

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