The goblin shark and its peculiarities

The elf shark populates the Japanese ocean floors between 250 and 1200 meters

by Lorenzo Ciotti
The goblin shark and its peculiarities

The goblin shark populates the Japanese ocean floors between 250 and 1200 meters. It can reach 170 kilos in weight and 3 meters in length. Its distinctive feature is its protractile mouth. The goblin shark, in fact, has a long beak-like rostrum, shaped like a trowel, much longer than the snout of other shark species.

Among the other characteristics of this species we remember the color of the body, almost completely pink, and the long protrudable jaws. The goblin shark feeds on a large variety of organisms that inhabit the depths. Among its known prey are deep-sea squid, crabs and deep-sea fish.

Very little is known about its biology and reproductive behavior, as it is an animal that is rarely encountered. Although it may seem a rare species, it does not appear threatened by any sort of danger and for this reason it is not among the species considered endangered by the IUCN.
Only 45 examples of Mitsukurina owstoni are known to science.

Most of the goblin shark specimens captured come from Japan, to be precise from an area between Tosa Bay and the Boso Peninsula. The peaceful range of the species is quite extensive. Specimens of M. owstoni have been found in the waters off South Africa and in various sites scattered throughout the western Pacific Ocean.

Other goblin sharks have been caught off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. In 2004, Mitsukurina owstoni was cataloged by the IUCN Shark Red List Authority as a least endangered species. The explanation given to justify this classification was that, although sightings of this animal are relatively rare, the global distribution of the species, combined with the fact that it is only accidentally caught by fishermen, suggests that it does not run any risk of extinction.

The IUCN indicates intentional fishing, accidental mortality and, to a much lesser extent, water pollution as major risks for M. owstoni populations. Since it is currently in no risk, no attempt has been made to conserve the species.

In the Atlantic Ocean, the presence of the species has been confirmed off French Guiana to the west and in the Bay of Biscay and off Madeira and Portugal to the east. On the other side of the Atlantic, other specimens have also been captured in the Gulf of Mexico.

Almost all known goblin sharks are specimens caught unwittingly by fishermen. Since they live near the bottom, they are usually caught with nets and longlines placed on the bottom. Sometimes they are also caught with trawl nets.

Furthermore, some specimens got entangled in depth lines. The first known goblin shark to science was caught by a Japanese fisherman in the Kuroshio Current, off the coast of Yokohama, in 1897. This specimen was later identified as a 106-centimeter male.