Proposed Marine Protected Area Good News for Newly Discovered Deep-Sea Shark Nursery

Photo © Åsmund Isaksen

Photo © Åsmund Isaksen

An area called Mingulay Reef, off the west coast of Scotland, may become a marine protected area (MPA), which is good news for deep-sea sharks. Named for the black interior of its mouth, the blackmouth catshark would benefit from this potential MPA. Blackmouth catshark eggs were found carefully “nested” in Mingulay Reef corals that were located over 550 feet underwater.

Mingulay Reef is a safe haven for the blackmouth catshark eggs; the hard branches of the corals can protect the eggs from predators and nesting the eggs at such a depth reduces the chance of them drifting away in the current.
Mingulay Reef is already a Special Area of Conservation under the European Union’s Habitats Directive, but the reef has also been awaiting designation as an MPA for the past three years. If the reef were to achieve MPA status, protection would be bolstered.

The MPA could help the Scottish economy, since sharks support many recreational catch-and-release fishermen in Scotland. More than 60% of sports fishermen target catsharks, which brings in over $180 million for the Scottish economy. If Mingulay Reef is designated an MPA, the benefits of protecting a spawning and nursery ground for deep-sea sharks could contribute an estimated $15 billion to the United Kingdom’s economy over the next 20 years.
The Scottish Government will soon be consulting on 33 new MPA proposals for Scottish waters. Hopefully, Mingulay Reef will be considered once again so that this economically and ecologically important habitat can gain further protection.

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